Blog Post

ONC pushes information blocking compliance deadline to April. Here's what you need to know.

By Julia Connell

October 30, 2020

    In what comes as a relief to many physician practices, hospitals, and IT developers across the country, the Office of National Coordinator for Health IT just released an interim final rule that delays several provisions of the ONC Cures Act final rule. The original information blocking compliance date was set for November 2, 2020, just days away. The interim rule establishes a new information blocking compliance deadline of April 5, 2021, allowing providers and IT developers more flexibility to respond to the Covid-19 public health emergency.

    Want more resources on ONC information blocking? Check out our new toolkit.

    What this means for providers

    For providers who are just starting to dig into this regulation, due to limited capacity and competing priorities in 2020, this is a welcome relief. They will have more time to understand the regulation and begin their compliance efforts ahead of the new April 5 compliance deadline. Meanwhile, we've also worked with many providers who have made significant progress in their information blocking compliance approach. This delay may not dramatically change the trajectory of their efforts, but it will give more time to solidify their organizational approach.

    Here are our recommendations to make the most of the delay:

    1. Use extra time to refine internal policies and workflows: Your organization's areas of focus will vary based on your patient population, EHR configuration, and needs. Some of the areas we've been having conversations with members are around certain types of data like lab results release and clinical notes. Other conversations have focused on how to approach data sharing across different sites of care or specialties.

    2. Coordinate with partners and market. As industry best practices evolve, make sure your internal policies around data sharing are not an outlier compared to your referral partners and the broader market. For example, if it takes a patient significantly longer to access their data from your system, versus another organization in your market, that can be a factor in an information blocking investigation.  

    3. Increase clinician comfort with data sharing. Continue to establish buy-in for new policies around data sharing. For example, to build comfort with sharing clinical notes, it's helpful to give clinicians guidance on how to write more patient-friendly clinical notes.

    What this means for IT developers

    Beyond delaying the information blocking compliance date, the rule also pushed out several requirements for certified health IT developers. The new deadlines are:

    • April 5, 2021: Conditions of Certification/Maintenance of Certification (CoC/MoC) requirements for information blocking, assurances, application programming interface (API), and communications

    • December 31, 2022: Updates to 2015 Edition health IT certification criteria updates (except for EHI export, which is extended until December 31, 2023), and new standardized API functionality

    • One year extension: IT developer submission of initial attestations and real world testing by one calendar year.

    Ultimately, these delays give IT developers more time to align their technology with updated CEHRT criteria and roll out those updates to providers. They should continue to collaborate with their clients as providers work toward compliance with the information blocking provision—many are continuing to evaluate and refine their data sharing policies, workflows, and system settings. The delay also gives IT developers more time to make sure they are compliant with CoC/MoC requirements under the ONC certification program, including the information blocking requirement.

    Despite delay, don't lose momentum

    Even with the extension, it's important not to lose momentum in your efforts to comply with the information blocking provision. The coming months will certainly bring more updates. We anticipate ONC will also use this additional time to publish educational resources, which may further inform your approach. We're also waiting on more information about appropriate disincentives for providers and how enforcement of penalties will work for IT developers.

    Learn more: Are you information blocking?

    Check out our new Information Blocking Infographic, which highlights potential blind spots in your information blocking preparation process.

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