HHS clarifies 3 Cures Act definitions

HHS clarified three definitions in the 21st Century Cures Act's information blocking rule to better ensure compliance with the law, according to a Nov. 16 blog post.

Here are clarifications to the rule:

  1. "Required by law"
    The Cures Act's information blocking definition did not include practices that could impede access, exchange or use of electronic health data when it was required by law. The ONC interprets "required by law" to include federal and state statutes, regulations, court orders and binding settlements or administrative decisions.

    For example, it likely would not be information blocking if someone adhered to a state court order that restricted disclosing health data in a closed adoption or adhered to a state law that restricts disclosing certain parts of a minor's health information to their parents.

  2. "Interference"
    An interference is a healthcare organization that prevents access to or discourages the access or exchange of electronic health information. However, if a state or federal law allows a particular interference to occur without violating the law, then the practice could not solely rely on that law as justification for interfering with access. Organizations are encouraged to examine their rules surrounding periods of delays before health information is shared, as practices established before April 5, 2021, might now constitute information blocking.

  3. "Exceptions"
    There are eight regulatory exceptions for the information blocking definition. Other laws might place preconditions to sharing health information. In this situation, organizations should review the Privacy and Preventing Harm Exceptions. For example, one aspect of the Privacy Exception focuses on fulfilling legal preconditions before providing access to health information.

    Privacy exceptions might be reasonable and necessary to restrict access to a patient’s health information, such as exceptions that cover interfering with access from a parent to a pediatric patient to reduce the risk of potential harm to the patient.

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