EHRA: Vendors and their healthcare clients ready for ‘info sharing’

The Department of Health and Human Services Office of the Inspector General will today begin imposing penalties for information blocking, including possible compliance violations for “acts and omissions” and fines of up to $1 million.

Info blocking, information sharing and consumer education

Healthcare IT vendors have been preparing for two years to make patient electronic health information available for access, exchange or use on September 1, according to leaders of the Electronic Health Record Association.

They can use patient portals, other web interfaces, APIs, and a plethora of technologies and platforms to do this. Although OIG published its final rule on June 27, the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT is still working on the certification rules proposed earlier this year, they said. Healthcare IT news this week.

“Information blocking is not done yet from a regulatory perspective,” said Leigh Burchell of Altera Digital Health, vice chair of the EHRA blocking compliance task force and member of the organization’s executive committee.

“ONC is constantly releasing new things all aimed at facilitating access, exchange and use of information. So while the OIG enforcement date begins (today), we know there’s more to come. We’re all just going to be kind about continuing to lug around delivering what we need to deliver. It’s the right thing to do, and it’s not done yet from a regulatory perspective,” she said.

Information sharing is what the organization has come to call its unprecedented efforts to collaborate and enable accessibility to patient data and pave the way for healthcare providers to deliver more comprehensive care.

EHRA has raised concerns about IT companies balancing new regulatory compliance with other HHS requirements. But despite being competitors, Burchell, David Bucciferro of Foothold Technology-Radicle Health and Chairman of the EHRA Executive Committee, and Dr. Bill Hayes of the CPSI and the Vice-Chairman of the EHRA, all said that members rose to the challenges presented to them with the intention of passing the Healing Act.

Bucciferro pointed out that dealing with information blocking brought the industry together in a unique way — “like helping each other understand ways to share information within the rules that are imposed on us,” he said.

“It was very refreshing from the beginning of our information group, which started with blocking information. Once we understood what was being asked, all our companies switched to an information sharing perspective,” he said.

‘Agree. That’s the whole concept of this case,” Hayes said.

Critical to healthcare IT regulatory compliance, they say, is educating healthcare consumers so they understand “what is being shared, how it might be shared, and what different pieces of patient data may not be shared.” “

That will be challenging enough for sellers to grapple with. A patchwork of evolving privacy laws at both the federal and state levels will require juggling, such as a referendum on Maryland’s 2024 ballot that would legally restrict reproductive data.

Then there are the lawsuits.

Burchell said there have been a lot of conversations lately about what happens if a patient comes directly to a provider to request their data if they can’t get it from their doctor, as providers are not currently discouraged with sanctions.

“What are the implications for blocking information? What does that look like, especially for on-site installations where we don’t actually have control over the data?”

Many conversations will take place in the coming years. Healthcare organizations may be required to follow state or federal laws governing the release of medical records, which may raise allegations of privacy violations under HIPAA.

“There are so many scenarios where there are use cases around data segmentation and data withholding that I think we’ll probably see played out in court,” Burchell said.

The HHS Office of Civil Rights is currently investigating Vanderbilt University Medical Center following a legal battle involving transgender patients who say the unauthorized disclosure of their personal health information to Tennessee Attorney General Jonathan Skrmetti was a violation of privacy.

Andrea Fox is editor-in-chief of Healthcare IT News.

Healthcare IT News is a HIMSS Media publication.