What is Information Blocking?

Back in March, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) finalized the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology’s (ONC) rules on health care interoperability systems. Under this new rule, patients would have more control over their personal health data. The ONC’s guidelines on what does and doesn’t constitute information blocking are also clarified under this new rule. Information blocking, the intentional act of withholding patient health information from the patient themselves or other health care professionals, can be harmful to patients. 

In our latest article, Iron Bridge tells you everything you need to know about information blocking

What Constitutes Information Blocking?

The ONC Clarifies What Does and Doesn’t Constitute Information Blocking

surgeon operating in hospital room

Information blocking, the act of withholding a patient’s health information from them or their other health care providers, may constitute a wide range of practices. According to section 40004 for the Cures Act, the following practices could constitute information blocking:

  • Restricting authorized access, exchange, or use of information for treatment
  • Implementing health IT that increases the difficulty or complexity in accessing, exchanging, or using electronic health information
  • Using a health information system that leads to waste or fraud
  • Employing an IT system that impedes advancements or innovations in health information access

Companies that engage in these practices are subject to serious penalties. While the ONC has not yet clarified what these exact consequences are, it is still important for health care providers to take heed of these rules. 

Are There Exceptions to Information Blocking?

The ONC Provides 8 Exceptions to Information Blocking

anesthesiologist monitoring surgical monitor

Before the new guidelines were established, there was a bit of confusion in the health care community over what constituted to information blocking and what did not. In response, the ONC defined a total of 8 exceptions for health care providers and IT developers, which provide assurance that any practices that meet one or more of their exceptions will not be considered information blocking. These exceptions are divided into two categories: exceptions involving the refusal to fulfill requests for accessing electronic health information and exceptions involving procedures for fulfilling such requests. 

Let’s explore these 8 exceptions together.

  1. Preventing Harm: Blocking information in order to protect a patient and prevent them from being harmed
  2. Privacy: A health care provider is not required to disclose electronic health information in a manner that breaks state or federal privacy laws
  3. Security: An actor may block information in order to protect the security of a patient’s electronic health information
  4. Infeasibility: Legitimate challenges or issues with practicality could inhibit a provider’s ability to comply with requests for accessing, exchanging, or using electronic health information
  5. Health IT: Provided certain conditions are met, an actor may take reasonable and necessary measures to make electronic health information temporarily unavailable in order to improve the functioning of its current IT structure
  6. Content and Manner: To support innovation, the ONC allows health care providers to make a first attempt at making negotiated terms for the access, use, and exchange of electronic health information
  7. Fees: Actors can charge reasonable fees for obtaining electronic health information under the expectation that a profit will be made
  8. Licensing: API providers can require licensing for API elements

Practices that do not meet any of these conditions will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis to determine whether a health care provider has engaged in information blocking. 

Benefits of New Information Blocking Prevention Policies 

How These Rules Can Benefit All Hospitals

stethoscope placed in front of person typing on a laptop

In order to improve a hospital’s interoperability processes, it is imperative that they implement these new rules quickly and efficiently. Not only do streamlined health IT systems increase satisfaction for employees, but they also dramatically reduce costs for producing patient records. Rather than printing out physical documents or CDs, health care providers can make patient records available electronically, giving them more time to focus on taking care of their patients and less on tedious administrative tasks.  

Meet Fhirstation: The Leading IT Solution for Information Blocking Prevention

A New IT Solution for Preventing Information Blocking

fhirstation graphic

Fhirstation by Iron Bridge is a leading patient access solution for EHR vendors and health plans. Designed for the 21st Century Cures Act and ONC and CMS Interoperability Final 2020, fhirstation is a top option for companies that are still transitioning their current interoperability systems to accommodate them. Not only that, but fhirstation also breaks down information blocking by allowing information to be exchanged between, patients, health care providers, EHR vendors, developers, and payers. 

Fhirstation offers a variety of features, including:

  • Document database for delivering single-digit millisecond performance
  • Adapters for translating and transforming EHR data into FHIR data models
  • Terminology services for industry coding systems
  • Powerful data analytics tools

Since its founding, Iron Bridge has remained dedicated to simplifying interoperability in the U.S health care system. Along with its comprehensive selection of IT solutions, Iron Bridge offers fhirstation — a SaaS solution for vendors and other health care providers. To learn more about how fhirstation can improve your company’s health care interoperability, contact the team at Iron Bridge today.

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