Epic, Cerner, Allscripts support HHS interoperability delay amid COVID-19

HHS delayed enforcing its interoperability final rules during the pandemic, which will give health systems and EHR companies time to meet the pressing needs of patients with COVID-19 and then prepare appropriately for the new rules.

CMS now will not enforce the new requirements for the Patient Access API and Provider Director API as well as the Patient Access API for Qualified Health Plan insurers on the individual market and Federally-Facilitated Exchanges until July 21, 2021. The ONC will also exercise discretion on enforcing all new requirements related to information blocking and other interoperability requirements for three months after the compliance dates.

Allscripts Vice President of Government Affairs Leigh Burchell applauded the move by HHS to delay enforcing the new interoperability rules amid COVID-19 to give healthcare organizations and companies the opportunity to fully prepare for the new rules.

"It's clear that most healthcare delivery organizations cannot focus on those types of rules right now, whether because they are overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients or struggling because their normal course of business has been interrupted," said Ms. Burchell. "We hope that CMS also takes action in short order, however, to clarify that other reporting deadlines — such as those facing providers at the end of the year or early next — will also be delayed. January may seem far removed, but many provider organizations are currently unable to take the associated updates to their EHRs that are being driven by regulatory requirements."

Epic issued a statement on April 23 in support of the final interoperability rules, lauding the greater flexibility it gives to healthcare organizations to educate patients on using apps to send their information from one system to another.

"The rules remain complex and will require substantial operational changes and significant time investment by health systems and health plans to implement these changes. We are committed to working with our customers to support their compliance efforts," says Epic's statement.

When the final rules were initially released on March 9, Cerner CEO Brent Shafer pledged in a blog post the company would support the final rules and said giving patients free and secure access to health data was the right thing to do and will promote digital product innovation, especially during the pandemic.

"By enabling consumers’ control of their health care information, we can help drive better health care outcomes, connecting data sources across a lifetime of care," he said in a blog post. "Consider the recent spread of COVID-19. Improved interoperability standards have the potential to improve pandemic responses, enabling easier telehealth treatments and improving analytics and intelligence to help providers contain spread."

The company supports HHS' decision to delay the final rule publication. "The delay of the publication of the final rule, as well as the extended enforcement of some of the provisions, are welcome news for our clients who are navigating the COVID-19 crisis at hand," the company said in a statement to Becker's. "This announcement, however, has not altered Cerner's original development or implementation plans and we continue to support our clients via consistent, informative communications on the rules and our product development timelines."

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