The AAMC joined nine other health care organizations in a Sept. 26 letter urging the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to give providers and health information technology (IT) vendors more time to comply with the upcoming Oct. 6 deadline to expand the definition of electronic health information (EHI) for purposes of information sharing.
Currently, regulations limit sharing requirements to EHI defined as data expressed by the United States Core Data for Interoperability version 1. Beginning Oct. 6, the definition of EHI will expand to all electronic protected health information in a designated record set, as defined under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA, P.L. 104-191).
The letter reiterated broad support for improved information sharing and interoperability, but notes that “significant knowledge gaps and confusion still exist within the provider and vendors communities with respect to implementation and enforcement of information blocking regulations.” Part of this confusion is due to inconsistency of deadlines between providers and vendors, with the latter not needing to deliver necessary upgrades for provider implementation until Dec. 31. Provider readiness has also been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and the shifting of resources in response to the public health emergency. To better support providers, the organizations requested the HHS offer an additional year to comply with the expanded definition of EHI.
Additionally, the letter provided the HHS with recommendations regarding investigations of information blocking and penalties. Specifically, the organizations asked the department to employ corrective action warnings to providers prior to beginning a formal investigation or imposing any monetary disincentives. Under the 21st Century Cures Act (P.L. 114-255), the HHS must establish “appropriate disincentives” for providers and civil monetary penalties (CMPs) for health IT vendors and health information exchanges found to have blocked information sharing afoul of the regulations. To date, the department has yet to announce disincentives for providers and has not finalized CMPs through rulemaking [refer to Washington Highlights, April 24, 2020].