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Health IT Now Presses ONC On Information Blocking Regulations

Health IT Now criticized ONC for its failure to publish information blocking regulations according to its set deadlines.

Health IT Now pressed ONC to release information blocking regulations.

Source: Thinkstock

By Kate Monica

- Health IT Now (HITN) is pushing ONC to release information blocking regulations after the federal agency missed its September deadline.

In a public statement, HITN responded to ONC’s House Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee hearing about its progress toward implementing provisions of the 21st Century Cures Act.

“Health IT Now thanks Chairman Burgess (R-TX) and members of the subcommittee for holding this hearing. As Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) remarked during the proceedings, the 21st Century Cures law is indeed one of Congress's 'stellar accomplishments' in recent memory - one that Health IT Now was proud to help write,” said Health IT Now Executive Director Joel White.

“The fact remains, however, that nearly two years after President Obama put his signature on the measure, this law remains incomplete; the result of a sluggish rulemaking process that has prevented this bipartisan achievement from living up to its fullest potential,” he continued.

In a proposed rule issued in May, ONC stated its plans to release information blocking regulations by September 2018.

ONC submitted information blocking regulations to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) in September for final review, where the rule has stalled.

“The 90-day timeline for this review to be completed will be reached in mere days and, based on this week's hearing, it appears the administration could be at risk of missing this critical deadline,” wrote White. “We are putting OMB on notice that further delays to this rule would be wholly unacceptable and would place a senseless, continued threat on consumer safety.”

“Patients and providers must insist on the release of a robust information blocking rule before year's end, and nothing less,” added White.

While Health IT Now expressed its disapproval over ONC’s failure to publish information blocking regulations in a timely manner, the coalition praised the federal agency’s efforts to foster new approaches for dealing with the opioid epidemic.

 “The hearing also offered reason for optimism, particularly the conversation around reducing provider burden and ONC's assurances that it will work to make certain that Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs (PDMPs) - which we know are often ineffective at capturing improper transactions in real-time - do not contribute to this festering problem,” wrote White.

“While CMS risks taking us backward in these efforts by mandating clinician PDMP checks, Health IT Now has proposed a better way through its endorsement of the bipartisan ALERT Act,” the coalition continued.

This most recent statement from Health IT Now pressing ONC to move forward with information blocking regulations follows an earlier letter requesting action on the part of the federal agency toward implementing provisions of 21st Century Cures.

In August, Health IT Now teamed up with stakeholders including AAFP and AMIA to push ONC to publish clear information blocking regulations to identify which activities are acceptable for health IT companies, and which activities may be subject to penalty.

The group of stakeholders argued the lack of clear information blocking regulations muddle ONC’s efforts to promote interoperability and encourage the use of open application programming interfaces (APIs).

Other stakeholders have published suggestions for potential regulations ONC could include in the final information blocking rule.

In November, AMA and MedStar offered recommendations for three information blocking regulations that may promote EHR usability and safety.

The recommended regulations would help to promote transparency surrounding the usability and safety of EHR systems. AMA and MedStar also suggested the regulations could allow researchers and third parties assessing EHR usability and safety issues to gain a more accurate and complete view of how products work.

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