A new federal rule authorizes the government to issue civil monetary penalties of up to $1 million against certain entities that commit information-blocking.
The regulations stem from the 21st Century Cures Act, which Congress phased in to give patients prompt access to their electronic health information (EHI).
The final rule by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of Inspector General (OIG) does not apply to physicians and other health care professionals unless they meet the definition of a health IT developer of certified health IT, health information exchange, or health information network.
Each penalty amount will consider the nature, extent, and harm of the information blocking, including the number of patients and physicians affected and the number of days the information blocking persisted.
Despite pushback from organized medicine, the rule will take effect Sept. 1.
Under related federal regulations, physicians are prohibited from engaging in practices that interfere with the access to or exchange or use of EHI, except as required by law or as specified in an information-blocking exception.
Although the new rule does not address physicians directly, HHS is developing a separate notice of proposed rulemaking to establish disincentives for physicians and other health care professionals. HHS anticipates publishing such a notice in September.
In the meantime, physicians may be notified by their vendors of new measures being taken to avoid potential information blocking and related penalties.
Experts recommend taking steps to comply with the requirements and using available resources. The American Medical Association advises practices to:
- Make sure they’ve implemented a process to evaluate and comply with the information-blocking requirements; and
- Contact their electronic health record (EHR) vendors to find out how they can help you comply with the information-blocking requirements.
TMA has a robust 21st Century Cures Act Resource Center, which includes:
For more information, HHS has articles, fact sheets, and FAQs to help educate practices on compliance.