Digital technologies have become prevalent in healthcare after the passage of the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act in 2009. Though we have seen adoption and meaningful use of technology in at least 96% of the hospitals in the United States, electronic access to health information is stymied.
What is Information Blocking?
“Information Blocking” means any practice that intentionally interferes, prevents, or materially discourages patients, providers and others from accessing, exchanging or using electronic health information (EHI) except as required by law or covered by an exception. These practices have plagued the healthcare industry and have been detrimental to improving overall patient-care. This stems from the physician’s reluctance to share patient health records outside their practice, unfair and restrictive contractual limitations, and excessive fees charged for non-standard interfaces to access and exchange health information records. These market forces created strong incentives to limit the availability of EHI, restricted patient mobility, weakened competition, and created barriers for developers to bring innovative applications and technologies that can use data to be more effective at improving individual and population level outcomes.
Starting April 5th 2021, the Information Blocking rule that implements certain provisions of the 21st Century Cures Act will come into effect. This rule promises to eliminate data blocking practices and remove adverse incentives. While the Health Information Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) permits sharing of personal health data, the Information Blocking rule will require electronic sharing of health records and deter any practice that impedes the flow of data or its use to improve delivery of care. This is expected to transform health consumer experience because patients can have electronic access to their health information at no cost.
Information Blocking rule’s sharp focus on patients rather than on specific technologies has the potential to pave the way for patient-centric care ecosystems and encourage innovation in healthcare. These transformations will provide convenience, bring competition, expand care options, enable cost transparency, improve care outcomes, and power the digital health app economy that offers choice to patients, physicians, payors and hospitals.
How to Prepare
While the Information Blocking rule offers more choices to patients and providers, health institutions must prepare themselves for the tsunami of data that will enter and leave their systems. Organizations will require strong governance, secure networks, enhanced compliance, and improved security. As policy goals provide more clarity around electronic access, it is apparent that technology will play an important role in eliminating digital barriers in a secure way to create a connected care world.
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