Information Blocking and the Future of Patient Care: Breaking Down the 8 Exceptions

Posted by Ken Reiher

Gerry Blass, President & CEO, ComplyAssistant

Helen Oscislawski, Esq., Founder & Managing Partner, Attorneys at Oscislawski LLC

President and CEO Gerry Blass sat down with Journal of AHIMA senior editor Mary Butler on a recent episode of the Hi Pitch Podcast to talk about the 21st Century Cures Act Information Blocking Final Rule and the eight information blocking exceptions. Blass was joined by attorney Helen Oscislawski, who spoke to the challenges her clients have faced as they prepare to comply with the rule, which goes into effect on April 5th. The podcast episode can be listened to in its entirety here.

The conversation centered around the following discussion points:

  • Level of readiness/preparedness for stakeholders whose organizations need to follow the Information Blocking Final Rule
  • Challenges to compliance with the Information Blocking regulations from legal and security perspectives
  • Scenarios of how the 8 stated exceptions are interpreted by the Actors who must comply as well as the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC), the agency behind Information Blocking
  • Tips for how to deal with Electronic Medical Record (EMR) vendors and make sure they are on board with compliance

The Information Blocking Final Rule impacts three main segments within the healthcare industry: healthcare providers, health information exchanges & networks, and health information IT workers. The purpose of the ruling is to enable patients and their providers to secure access to health information.

Helen explained that many providers in her clientele are taking initial steps to make sure they’re in compliance by the April 5th deadline. From a legal sense, the biggest challenge she sees her customers facing is a lack of clarity when it comes to what the exceptions are and if their organization meets that criteria. Gerry said that the work from a security standpoint has been more gradual as many leaders are having to reshape their review process for security risk assessments. He anticipates these assessments to expand greatly in 2021.

The eight exceptions to the Information Blocking Rule, which can be found here, are thoroughly interpreted on the FAQ’s page of the ONC website. Here organizations can learn everything they need to know about general information blocking, interference, Actors, electronic health information, general exceptions, and the preventing harm exception. There is also specific information about submitting a complaint to the Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) if you feel that information blocking has occurred within your organization.

Helen and Gerry concluded the interview by speaking to the importance that EMR vendors play in Information Blocking. It is key to remember that while vendors are certainly required to comply with the Information Blocking Rule provision, some of that will get pulled through their actual programs and how their IT solutions work. Helen gave the example of a patient portal that says a patient’s information (i.e., lab results) can be released immediately. While the vendor involved may be used to releasing the labs right away, the organization might need to add a process where they’re asking their patients if they want to have a delay in their labs being posted to the portal. In these situations where an Actor would need to make a decision that is tied to vendor functionality, provisions are necessary.