New Information Blocking Rules Now in Effect: What You Need to Know

Posted April 9, 2021

The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) has released a final rule on the implementation of the new “information blocking” rules put in place as a result of the 21st Century Cures Act, which requires physicians to comply with new regulations on the access, exchange, and use of patients’ electronic health information (EHI). Information blocking is defined as practices that are likely to interfere with, prevent, or materially discourage the access, exchange, or use of EHI.

Physicians, hospitals, electronic health record (EHR) vendors, and health information exchanges (HIE) and health information networks (HIN) are all subject to ONC’s rule and are referred to as “Actors.” All Actors are required to comply with the new requirements beginning April 5, 2021. After that date, Actors whose actions are likely to interfere with the access, exchange, or use of EHI could be considered information blockers and subject to penalties or disincentives. Penalties and disincentives for physicians and other health care providers have yet to be determined by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). However, physicians participating in the Promoting Interoperability (PI) Program could see an impact to their Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Merit-based Incentive Payment System (MIPS) incentives if they are found to be information blockers.

The ONC interprets the information blocking prohibition broadly and relies on eight exceptions that offer Actors certainty that if their practices with respect to accessing, exchanging, or using EHI meet the conditions of one or more exceptions, such practices will not be considered information blocking. The ONC provides specific definitions for how these exceptions can be applied. Documenting how an exception is applied to an individual information request and developing organizational policies for handling exceptions will be important in maintaining compliance with the information blocking rules.

The American Medical Association has created a two-part educational resource to help physicians understand the requirements and develop an information blocking compliance program:

  • Part 1 outlines what information blocking is, key terms to know, examples of information blocking practices, and a summary of exceptions for when physicians may restrict access, exchange, and use of EHI.
  • Part 2 helps physicians start down the path of compliance, including considerations for maintaining a compliance program and next steps.

It is important to note that the new rules also regulate EHR vendors and restrict them from blocking information. Your EHR vendor is prohibited from blocking your access, exchange, or use of medical information through contractual, technical, or financial limitations. Like all Actors, EHR vendors must comply with these regulations by April 5, 2021. If you have not already heard from your EHR vendor on what they are doing to come into compliance, you should reach out to them now.

Below are some additional resources to help you understand and comply with the new regulations:

ONC Fact Sheets

ONC Webinars

Information Blocking FAQs

Information Blocking Resource Center