ONC delays information blocking rule to September, says it's 'hard to sort out'

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ONC head Don Rucker, MD, said the agency's information blocking rule won't be released until September, according to the Politico Morning eHealth newsletter.

Dr. Rucker announced the new timeline for the rule, which has been delayed several times since the agency was tasked with developing it under the 21st Century Cures Act, during the ONC's second annual interoperability forum Aug. 6 in Washington, D.C.

Former President Barack Obama signed the 21st Century Cures Act into law December 2016.

Information blocking is commonly defined as a healthcare provider or vendor creating a barrier that inhibits the exchange of health information. However, Dr. Rucker said defining which behaviors constitute information blocking is "hard to sort out."

Dr. Rucker stressed the ONC's information blocking rule, which he said is still a "work in progress," will aim to develop protocols and standards to improve interoperability between providers for large amounts of healthcare data, rather than only focusing on individual patient records.

Some stakeholders have argued the ONC is taking too long to get the rule off the ground, which could have implications for patient safety. The HHS inspector general cannot enforce a ban on information blocking until the ONC releases its rule, according to Politico.

A group of 14 healthcare professional associations, trade organizations and vendors penned a letter to the agency Aug. 6 highlighting the importance of the rule.

"Every day that the administration delays implementation of these critical provisions places patients at risk of harm," the letter reads. "Information blocking impedes provider access to the most current, accurate or complete information on their patients. … The administration has had 601 days to draft and publish clear information blocking regulations. We understand the nuance required but feel that it is past time for a proposal to be made."

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