The Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT released a report this week outlining information blocking claims submitted through its online portal since April 5, 2021.
According to ONC, 299 submissions were received, with 274 of those classified as possible claims. The remaining 25 did not appear to be claims of information blocking.
“This is our first release of information blocking claims data, and we intend to evolve our reporting in the future as we get more data and public feedback,” wrote ONC’s Rachel Nelson and Cassie Weaver in a blog post accompanying the data. “Our goal is to create transparency and help the industry prevent information blocking before it happens.”
WHY IT MATTERS
As Nelson and Weaver noted, the 21st Century Cures Act directed ONC to implement a standardized process to report claims of information blocking.
“The information blocking claims reporting process welcomes claims of possible information blocking from anyone who believes they may have experienced or observed information blocking,” they said.
Out of the total claims submitted over the past 11 months, 176 were from patients who appeared to have been seeking access to their electronic health information.
There were 32 claims labeled as being from healthcare providers, 32 as a third party (such as a parent) on a patient’s behalf, 20 from health IT developers and three from health information networks or exchanges.
In addition, 42 claims were labeled as being from attorneys in addition to one of the other types of categories (depending on whom the attorney was working for).
“Some of the concerns described in the claims we have received appear on their face consistent with examples of practices likely to interfere with access, exchange, or use of EHI that we described in ONC’s Cures Act proposed and final rules,” wrote Nelson and Weaver.
For example, they said, providers have reported being excessively charged to access or export EHI, and patient claimants have described being charged fees for electronic access to their health information, experiencing unnecessary delays in receiving access to their EHI, or both.
Meanwhile, the vast majority of potential actors were healthcare providers, with health IT developers and health information exchanges also appearing as alleged blockers. Interestingly, 15 claims were raised against “non-actors,” meaning they did not fall into the ONC’s categories of information-blocking actors.
“To determine if information blocking occurred in any of these cases – and if so, which actor committed information blocking – an investigation would be needed,” observed Nelson and Weaver.
“Ultimately, whether information blocking occurred would depend on the full facts and circumstances of a specific case, and would be based on whether the individual or entity engaging in the practice is an ‘actor’ and had the requisite knowledge standard, whether the practice rose to the level of an interference, whether the claim involves electronic health information, and whether the practice was required by law or was covered by an exception to the definition of information blocking,” they continued.
The HHS Office of Inspector General can investigate any claim of information blocking. In addition, if claims are against health IT developers ONC may review their compliance with Certification Program requirements.
“Of course, ONC and OIG continuously coordinate and work together to address and deter information blocking,” wrote Nelson and Weaver.
THE LARGER TREND
Although the information-blocking rules outlined in the 21st Century Cures Act originally were slated to go into effect on November 2, 2020, the pandemic gave providers and developers an extension.
Still, confusion endured among many in the healthcare industry. In a survey from April 2021 – the month the rules went into effect – nearly half of respondents said they weren’t even familiar with the term “information blocking.”
ONC and experts have sought to shed light on the issue with multiple blog posts and informational sessions on the subject – which may prove necessary when information blocking regulations expand further on October 6 of this year.
ON THE RECORD
“As we continue to conduct outreach on the information blocking regulations and the process for reporting claims of information blocking, we’re heartened by the robust public participation we’ve seen to date and hope that any individual or organization who believes that they may have seen information blocking will consider filing a report through the Report Information Blocking Portal,” wrote Nelson and Weaver in their blog post.
Kat Jercich is senior editor of Healthcare IT News.
Email: [email protected]
Healthcare IT News is a HIMSS Media publication.
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