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EHRA Urges CMS, ONC to Extend Interoperability Rule Comment Period

The EHR association maintained stakeholders need 30 more days to review the substantive interoperability rules from ONC and CMS.

EHRA requested ONC and CMS extend comment period for two proposed rules on interoperability and information blocking.

Source: Thinkstock

By Kate Monica

- The EHR Association (EHRA) recently issued letters to ONC and CMS requesting a 30-day extension of the comment period for the federal agencies’ proposed rules on interoperability and information blocking.

In a letter to National Coordinator for Health Information Technology Don Rucker, the association emphasized that ONC’s proposed rule suggests complicated, significant adjustments to regulations governing the health IT industry. As a result, EHRA requested the comment period be extended to June 3, 2019.

“If additional time is allowed, it would enable EHR developers to survey EHR Association members in order to provide ONC with actual development timelines for the measures being proposed,” wrote EHRA.

“While some measures may be straightforward to achieve in a short timeline, others are likely to require more complex coding and implementation, thus calling into question the feasibility of the proposed 24-month development, testing and implementation timeline,” the association continued.

EHRA stated allowing more time for health IT developers and other stakeholders to review the proposed rule may help to avoid unintended consequences and additional provider burden, which generally accompanies changes to standards and measures.

“We recognize the desire to roll out these rules quickly, but with an ultimate goal of enhanced usability, it is important that adequate time be allowed for commenters,” the association wrote.

In a letter to CMS, EHRA stated its support for the aims of the proposed rule.

“We are excited that CMS has put the patient at the center of its rule; ensuring that patients have access to their data is something that everyone can support and fulfills an early promise made by this administration,” stated the association.

However, EHRA maintained certain aspects of the rule could prove burdensome for health IT developers.

“As we’ve begun to delve more deeply into the proposed rule, we have already identified several areas that would indirectly require developer action, which appears unanticipated by the authors of the proposed regulations,” EHRA noted.

While EHRA supports efforts by the federal agencies to improve patient data access and fulfill the aims of the 21st Century Cures Act, the association stated health IT developers need adequate time to provide the data and insights necessary for regulators to implement and effective rule.  

“Between CMS and ONC’s two proposed rules, developers and other healthcare stakeholders have a lot of work ahead of us for this comment period,” stated EHRA. “We expect HHS to hold developers to high standards and implementation timelines, and we also hope that the department will work with the development community to finalize requirements that are achievable.”

The proposed information blocking rule from ONC is primarily designed to hold health IT developers accountable for securing secure access to patient health information and discouraging information blocking as a condition of certification.

Meanwhile, the proposed interoperability rule from CMS extends accountability for patient access to health information to Medicare, Medicaid, and CHIP providers.

CMS has also proposed publicly identifying doctors, hospitals, and other healthcare providers who engage in information blocking.

As part of the rule, hospitals would be required to send electronic notifications to providers when patients are admitted, discharged, and transferred to hospitals.

Payers would also be responsible for sharing data with patients under the proposed rule. Health plans would be expected to support application programming interface (API) access to provider director data.

“We propose that payers in CMS programs be able to participate in a trusted exchange network which would allow them to join any health information network they choose and be able to participate in nationwide exchange of data. This would enable the information to flow securely and privately between plans and providers throughout the healthcare system,” the federal agency wrote.

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