US Health Providers Struggle With Oct. 6 Data Blocking Regulations

Twenty-eight health IT professional associations, provider organizations and other stakeholders are asking the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) for more clarity and flexibility on how best to implement federal information blocking regulations set to go into effect Oct. 6.

In an Aug. 18 letter addressed to HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra, the groups warned that compliance will likely fall short if the agency doesn’t take additional steps to address “significant knowledge gaps … with respect to implementation and enforcement” that are commonplace among providers.

“Many independent, small, rural and solo medical practices are still unaware or underinformed about information blocking requirements. This likely plays a major role in allegations that providers are blocking access to patient data,” stakeholders including Ascension, Epic, Mayo Clinic, the American Medical Informatics Association and the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society wrote.

Related: Hospital Providers Seek Clarity On New Data Blocking Regulations

The Oct. 6 regulations broaden the scope of information blocking rules put into effect in April 2021 that required health IT vendors, providers and health information exchanges to enable patients to access and download their health records with third-party apps. Under the rule, providers can’t inhibit the access, exchange or use of health information unless the data fall within eight exceptions.

That initial pass generated hundreds of allegations of data blocking—particularly among providers—with HHS heads later acknowledging that more work needed to be done on enforcement and standardization.

Starting Oct. 6, the definition of electronic health information in the 21st Century Cures Act will expand beyond the U.S. Core Data for Interoperability (USCDI) Version 1 to all electronic protected health information that a patient has the right to access under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).