ONC and CMS Release Interoperability and Information Blocking Final Rules

The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) today released two final rules supporting the seamless and secure access, exchange and use of electronic health information.

The final rules follow requirements in the 21st Century Cures Act, directing ONC and CMS to develop policies that foster interoperability through data sharing and identify activities that do not constitute information blocking. Additionally, the rules would increase choice and competition while promoting innovation to expand patient access to and control over their health information.

Under the final rule, ONC continues the process of implementing requirements for health information technology (IT) developers through the agency's Health IT Certification Program to define reasonable and necessary activities that do not constitute information blocking in health IT systems and establish the voluntary certification of health IT for use by pediatric health care providers. ONC adopts the HL7® Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources® (FHIR®) standard release 4 as a foundational standard for electronic health information exchange for certified electronic health record technology (CEHRT).

After receiving comments on the proposed rule from the ACC and other stakeholders, ONC modified the implementation timeline to allow more time for vendors, providers and others to prepare and implement the new requirements. Additionally, ONC made changes to help clarify information blocking requirements, including providing details on who would be required to share electronic health information at an individual's request and how this should be completed. 

The CMS rule includes several policy changes, as part of its MyHealthEData initiative, seeking to make patient data more useful and transferable through open, secure, standardized and machine-readable formats while reducing restrictive burdens on health care providers. The rule also requires hospitals to send electronic patient event notifications of a patient's admission, discharge and/or transfer to another health care facility or provider.

"The College is committed to reducing administrative burdens related to the use of EHRs by supporting efforts to increase EHR interoperability. We're pleased to see that changes to the rules proposed and supported by the ACC have been included in the final rule," says ACC Health Affairs Committee Chair Thad F. Waites, MD, MACC.

ACC's Health Policy Principles map out its advocacy work to achieve the goal of optimizing the use of EHRs while minimizing the administrative burden. ACC staff will further review the final rules to identify additional topics of interest to ACC members in the coming days. More information will be forthcoming in the ACC Advocate newsletter, on Twitter and on ACC.org/Advocacy.

For more information, review CMS and ONC fact sheets on the final rules:

Keywords: ACC Advocacy, Electronic Health Records, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, U.S., Medicaid, Information Dissemination

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