AAFP Joins Call for HHS to Act on Information Blocking

September 08, 2017 02:45 pm News Staff

Because information blocking between different health IT systems may endanger patients, the AAFP recently signed on to a joint letter seeking to lay the groundwork for a solution.  

[Person typing into a laptop that displays the message Page Blocked]

Physicians are not alone in recognizing the importance of information exchange, and several health IT companies were among signatories of the Aug. 29 letter(2 page PDF) to HHS and the agency's Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC).

The letter notes that the 21st Century Cures Act(www.congress.gov) prohibits information blocking and allows for penalties against vendors or others who violate the prohibition by, for example, charging a fee to exchange information or simply refusing to share it. Although some large health systems cite patient privacy as a reason for not sharing data, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act explicitly permits the disclosure of patient data to other health professionals.

The letter asks for greater clarity and proposes meeting with HHS and ONC this month.

"The law, if implemented correctly, can facilitate the sharing of information to both enhance personalized care, as well as strengthen the growing population health model of coordinated high-quality care," the letter states.

The letter spells out more than a dozen detailed questions that should be considered in a proposed rule on the topic, ranging from how to define information blocking and "complete record" to specific enforcement issues.

One question raises the possibility of a mitigation period for vendors and others to make corrections before penalties are imposed.

HHS has been working for several years to develop a road map that would facilitate information sharing and prohibit IT vendors or others from using data access to extract more revenue, and the letter notes the importance of this effort.

"This business practice barrier to interoperability does not just thwart federal and private efforts to more fully share clinical information, it may pose significant risk to patient safety," the letter states.

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