ONC Proposes New Requirements Around Information Blocking and Health IT Certification

On Monday, February 11, the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) continued its implementation of the 21st Century Cures Act with the publication of its proposed regulation designed to advance interoperability, support the access, exchange and use of electronic health information, and address occurrences of information blocking.

ONC is also implementing Conditions and Maintenance of Certification requirements for health IT developers and supporting patient access to their electronic health information (EHI), such as making a patient’s EHI more electronically accessible through the adoption of standards and certification criteria and the implementation of information blocking policies that support patient electronic access to their health information at no cost. In addition, the proposed rule would modify the 2015 Edition health IT certification criteria and ONC Health IT Certification Program in other ways to advance interoperability, enhance health IT certification, as well as reduce burden and costs.

Moreover, the proposed rule focuses on establishing application programming interfaces (APIs) for several interoperability purposes, including patient access to their health information without special effort. The API approach also supports health care providers having the sole authority and autonomy to unilaterally permit connections to their health IT through certified API technology that health care providers have acquired.

Through this regulatory policymaking, ONC is trying to ensure coordination with the proposed regulation from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) to advance interoperability and facilitate greater patient engagement with and control over their healthcare data. Overall, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is attempting to create opportunities for new market entrants and remove barriers to interoperability and EHI exchange, which would greatly benefit health care providers and patients.