CHIME Statement on Hill Oversight of ONC Interoperability Rule
The 21st Century Cures Act absolutely will help spur better interoperability across healthcare and the administration is taking seriously their task to further this with the proposed interoperability rules released earlier this year. The Office of the National Coordinator’s (ONC) rule makes several improvements to the way certified products work, requirements for electronic health record (EHR) vendors that make providers more informed consumers and puts a spotlight on connecting patients to their records. Today we call on Congressional leaders to help ensure that the administration properly acts on their well-intended policies. We need interoperability, clinicians need it and patients deserve it.
However, many of the proposed policies in information blocking are very complex, confusing and in fact seem to pit the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) against new information blocking policies, creating a chaotic state in which providers will have to function. ONC has attempted to thread the needle with a series of exceptions to inoculate providers and others from invoking data blocking violations and penalties. Unfortunately, the complexity associated with deciphering this is beyond most providers’ reach and will require substantial legal assistance to navigate. In addition, there is significant confusion around the definition of “electronic health information” or EHI, which forms the basis for much of the policies in the rule. Both issues must be clarified so that providers understand what data they must share. As information blocking policies are rolled out and providers are in a learning mode, there must be ample time to master them before any penalties are levied.
Finally, given the amount of patient information that is at stake and the explosion of third-party apps, we owe it to patients to ensure that their data is shared in a manner that protects their privacy and that security is built in on the front end, not the back end. Patients have every right to access their health information in a timely manner, but they also need to be informed about how third parties plan on reusing or selling this information.
We still have a chance to get these policies right. We are eager to work with the administration and Congress to carry out the intent of Cures while creating reasonable and clear requirements for providers that put patients at the center.