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ONC Interoperability Rule Information Blocking Regulations Launch

Following a significant delay, ONC has officially put the 21st Century Cures Act information blocking provisions into effect.

The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) has officially enabled the 21st Century Cures Act’s information blocking provisions.

As of April 5, 2021, healthcare providers, certified health IT developers, and health information exchanges (HIEs) will need to abide by the regulations.

“That said, all health care stakeholders will benefit, including many of these types of participants in the form of more readily available EHI when and where it is needed most,” Micky Tripathi, national coordinator for health information technology, and Steven Posnack, deputy national coordinator for health information technology, wrote in an ONC blog post.

In October 2020, the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) allowed healthcare organizations further flexibility and time to appropriately respond to the spread of COVID-19 by extending compliance deadlines.

On March 9, 2020, ONC officially released the next phase of the 21st Century Cures Act, the interoperability rule, which primarily focused on interoperability and patient information blocking.

“This final rule implements certain provisions of the 21st Century Cures Act, including Conditions and Maintenance of Certification requirements for health information technology (health IT) developers under the ONC Health IT Certification Program (Program), the voluntary certification of health IT for use by pediatric health care providers, and reasonable and necessary activities that do not constitute information blocking,” the ONC final rule stated.

“The implementation of these provisions will advance interoperability and support the access, exchange, and use of electronic health information.”

Tripathi and Posnack said a smaller subset of patient data would be a primary focus through the next 18 months.

“Specifically, the EHI that cannot be ‘blocked’ is limited to the data elements represented in the United States Core Data for Interoperability (USCDI Version 1),” Tripathi and Posnack wrote. “This initial 18-month period and limited scope gives the regulated community time to grow more experienced with the information blocking regulation, including when and how to meet an ‘exception,’ before the full scope of the regulation’s EHI definition comes into effect.”

“Of course, those who are able to share more EHI than is represented by the USCDI Version 1 need not wait to begin doing so,” Tripathi and Posnack continued. “Similarly, as a way to prepare for October 2022, we strongly encourage the regulated community to make all EHI available as if the scope of EHI were not currently limited.”

The two ONC leaders asked healthcare stakeholders for input regarding information blocking and coinciding enforcement efforts. Furthermore, ONC said it will continue to release information blocking educational materials to help keep stakeholders informed.  

Looking forward, the 2015 edition health IT certification criteria updates and the new standardized application programming interface (API) functionality dates are now required by December 31, 2022.

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