ONC task forces to dig into massive information blocking proposal

The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology has created four task forces to analyze and make recommendations on its 724-page information-blocking proposal, according to a report in Politico.

The task forces will cover information-blocking, certification requirements, standards for voluntary pediatric health IT certification and will review the new U.S. Core Data for Interoperability proposal, the report said.


ONC released its long-awaited new information blocking rule Feb. 11, calling for healthcare providers and payers to implement open data sharing technologies to support transitions of care as patients move between plan types.

The new rule emphasizes patients’ control of their electronic health records. If a patient requests his or her record, and it’s not given to them electronically and for free, that’s information blocking.

Despite the rule’s length and complexity, ONC is not giving in to public pressure to extend the comment period on the rule.

Speaking at a Feb. 20 meeting of the Health Information Technology Advisory Committee, Elise Sweeney Anthony, director of the ONC Office of Policy, said ONC will not be extending the comment period on the proposal, because the agency thinks it is important to move as quickly as possible on the final rule, Politico reported.


Under the proposed rule, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services would also require that healthcare providers and plans implement open data sharing technologies to support transitions of care as patients move between plan types.

The proposal also calls on the healthcare industry to adopt standardized APIs, which will help individuals securely and easily access structured and unstructured electronic health information formats using smartphones and other mobile devices.

It also implements the information blocking provisions of the 21st Century Cures Act, including identifying reasonable and necessary activities that do not constitute information blocking.

At a Feb. 12 opening keynote panel at HIMSS19 in Orlando, key leaders discussed the proposed rule. CMS Administrator Seema Verma, former National Coordinaor for Health IT Karen DeSalvo, former HHS Secretary Michael Leavitt and former U.S. CTO Aneesh Chopra told HIMSS CEO Hal Wolf that , when it comes to FHIR and open APIs, the tide has shifted and the private sector now needs to build on the momentum laid by government efforts.


“We know that information blocking is often a misalignment of incentives, so it actually does allow us to consider things like cost and difficulty and burden,” Dr. John Halamka, CIO of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center told us Feb. 11, upon his initial review of the proposed rule. “In effect, what it does is to remove arbitrary blocking and gives us a guideline (to move forward). And that’s really a great approach.”

Diana Manos is a Washington, D.C.-area freelance writer specializing in healthcare, wellness and technology. 

Twitter: @Diana_Manos
Email the writer: [email protected] 

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