• Data Sharing and Information Blocking Rules a Step in the Right Direction

    Wednesday, March 11, 2020

    Statement attributable to:
    Gary LeRoy, MD
    American Academy of Family Physicians

    “The American Academy of Family Physicians welcomes the two data sharing rules issued by the HHS Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services as part of the bipartisan 21st Century Cures Act. These rules implement interoperability and patient access provisions that represent a big step forward in the Administration’s push toward a nationwide interoperable health care system.

    “Family physicians routinely struggle with acquiring the right health information to make the best decisions with their patients. The lack of interoperability is a fundamental issue leading to increased cost, burden and frustration, as well as lowering quality and health. The AAFP and other organizations outlined interoperability principles in a white paper that underscores the importance of promoting patients’ meaningful access to their health data while protecting their privacy and without burdening clinicians.

    “Family physicians, due to the lack of robust interoperability, are dependent on their EHR vendor to provide needed functionality. With the wide-scale adoption of application programming interfaces and the requirements in the ONC rule for vendors to implement and make them available, there is an opportunity for third-party IT vendors to develop and provide our members with innovative solutions to add needed functionalities that are not being produced by their EHR vendor. We are excited about the potential of a robust app marketplace in health IT.

    “The ONC rule includes 18-month restrictions on electronic health information to just the U.S. Core Data for Interoperability, which gives members, in addition to the six month delay in enforcement of the rule, the opportunity to adjust to the new requirements and gives the industry time to engage and advocate for changes that may be needed as unintended consequences are uncovered. Additionally, the CMS rule finalizes admission, discharge and transfer notifications as conditions of participation. We view this as a win, as timely notifications will support family physicians with care coordination and managing transitions of care.

    “The AAFP is pleased that HHS incorporated some of our input, and we are glad that our feedback is reflected in the final rules. However, we remain concerned that the rules leave high levels of uncertainty and could be burdensome for practices to implement. The Administration’s strategy addresses some of the issues that the AAFP has raised regarding the administrative burden of EHRs. These rules are a good starting point to guide regulators and vendors, but HHS should look to implement these rules in a manner that is consistent with policies outlined in the HHS strategy.

    “Part of the challenge in implementing the 21st Century Cures Act is to thread the needle between penalizing true information blockers while not adding complexity, uncertainty and burden upon practices who are not blocking information. We are gratified that the information blocking rule did not set forth penalties for health care providers, but we are disappointed that ONC did not explicitly adopt our recommendation that penalties should be based on a pattern of behavior, and not an individual violation.

    “These rules are a step in the right direction, and we will continue to engage with the Administration and other stakeholders to make improvements.”

    Editor's Note: To arrange an interview with Dr. LeRoy, contact Megan Moriarty, 800-274-2237, Ext. 6052, or mmoriarty@aafp.org.



    Founded in 1947, the American Academy of Family Physicians represents 134,600 physicians and medical students nationwide, and it is the only medical society devoted solely to primary care.

    Family physicians conduct approximately one in five of the total medical office visits in the United States per year – more than any other specialty. Family physicians provide comprehensive, evidence-based, and cost-effective care dedicated to improving the health of patients, families and communities. Family medicine’s cornerstone is an ongoing and personal patient-physician relationship where the family physician serves as the hub of each patient’s integrated care team. More Americans depend on family physicians than on any other medical specialty.

    To learn more about the AAFP and family medicine, visit www.aafp.org/media. Follow us on Twitter, and like us on Facebook. For information about health care, health conditions and wellness, visit the AAFP’s award-winning consumer website, www.familydoctor.org.