HHS’ Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology on Thursday released plans to extend compliance dates for its long-awaited information-blocking rule on account of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The agency issued an interim final rule delaying compliance deadlines for the rule’s information-blocking provisions and health IT certification requirements.
“We are hearing that while there is strong support for advancing patient access and clinician coordination through the provisions in the final rule, stakeholders also must manage the needs being experienced during the current pandemic,” ONC chief Dr. Don Rucker said in a statement.
“To be clear, ONC is not removing the requirements advancing patient access to their health information that are outlined in the Cures Act Final Rule. Rather, we are providing additional time to allow everyone in the health care ecosystem to focus on COVID-19 response,” he added.
The delay is designed to give healthcare providers more time and flexibility to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to ONC.
It marks the second time ONC has delayed enforcement of the rule, which was released in March.
In April, the agency said it would exercise enforcement discretion for three months following initial dates outlined in the rule.
Under the interim rule, providers won’t be required to come into compliance with the regulation’s information-blocking provisions until April 2021. Compliance for conditions and maintenance of certification requirements related to application programming interface will also go into effect in April 2021.
New standardized API functionality won’t be required until December 2022.
ONC’s rule, a provision of the 21st Century Cures Act, is designed to make it easier for providers and patients to exchange health data, in large part by requiring providers to adopt standardized APIs—protocols that connect IT systems like electronic health records with third-party apps—and by defining what constitutes blocking health information.