In 2016, Congress passed the 21st Century Cures Act to drive the electronic access, exchange, and use of health information. On March 9, 2020, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC) released its Final Rule, which established exceptions to the Act’s information blocking provision and adopted new health information technology certification requirements to enhance patients’ no-cost smartphone access to their health information through the use of application programming interfaces (APIs).
For the past two years, healthcare providers have been working to implement the various requirements of the Cures Act Final Rule and comply with ONC’s implementation timeline. Coming up later in 2022 are two new requirements impacting both providers and health IT developers.
First, beginning on October 6, 2022, the electronic health information definition will expand and no longer be limited to the data elements represented in the United States Core Data for Interoperability (USCDI). Thus, healthcare providers will need to be prepared to provide their patients with access to this additional information. Also, health IT developers will need to adopt the new HL7 FHIR APIs, which will further promote interoperability by allowing patients to aggregate their health information more easily. Health IT developers will also need to certify to several new certification criteria to promote new standards for data access and exchange.
Healthcare providers should be working hand-in-hand with their health IT developer to ensure that these new requirements are being met in order to avoid facing claims of information blocking. Providers must remain focused as these additional Cures Act Final Rule requirements take effect, further changing the landscape of patients’ rights to access their personal health information and placing new obligations on providers to make this information accessible. Additionally, this is a good time for providers to confirm that their internal procedures continue to follow all Cures Act Final Rule requirements to ensure that any limitation on the access of patient information falls within one of the information blocking exceptions, as enforcement activities are expected to increase at some point during the remainder of 2022 or possibly into 2023.