Complying with the info blocking rules: Start with community

Industry organizations are tackling some of the challenges by offering assistance and education to members.

The information blocking rules are complicated, with enforcement provisions expected to be released this fall. Federal regulators expect all healthcare providers, health IT vendors, health information exchanges and health information networks to be in compliance as of the release date of the rule, which was April 5.

This is a tall order and difficult to achieve compliance with because of the technical requirements inherent in the rules and lack of clarity surrounding them, experts say. Yet, some organizations have anticipated potential consequences and have found ways to prepare, despite the uncertainty, and they are even lending a hand in helping to educate the rest of the industry.

Mariann Yeager, CEO of the Sequoia Project—an organization dedicated to helping advance interoperability—says large providers and HINs are on the forefront of preparation with the regulations. Sequoia has been conducting bootcamps to help organizations prepare, with an emphasis on sharing what they learn.

Mariann Yeager, CEO, the Sequoia Project

According to Yeager, the best way to prepare now is to be informed, get involved and leverage public resources, all which can be done with resources available on Sequoia’s website. “Getting involved in a community of practice is valuable, so you’re not going it alone. Seek help if you need it and expect to be doing this over the long term,” she says.

Leigh Burchell, vice president of government affairs and public policy for Allscripts, agrees. Her advice to organizations that are struggling to adapt to the rules is to join in efforts with other industry groups or trade associations that offer educational webinars. “To me, it’s been tremendously useful to hear what other companies are saying,” she says. “Getting involved in industry discussions and debates is a quick way to make sure that what you think you understand in this space is a shared view by others. Even when you think you understand, you may not really be sure if you are interpreting it as the enforcement entities, until the final rule comes out.”

Joseph Cody, associate director of research and innovation policy at the American College of Cardiology, says the information blocking rules are going to require that physicians change their workflow. “Some of the difficulty right now is that we need to develop this workflow, and if patients request information, we need to have this workflow in place,” Cody says. “It’s very difficult because patients can ask for the information in a number of ways of their choosing. For example, they can call on the phone or use a portal. No matter how a patient asks for the information, a physician needs to have a process in place, and it’s a process that, in the past, they may not have had in place.”

Cody says not to expect one-size-fits-all solutions when it comes to compliance with the regulation. It will be a different process for each physician, involving multiple teams, including EHR vendors, the IT department, compliance and legal teams. Administrators will likely field the bulk of the questions posed to a medical practice, and they will need to be trained to understand the regulation, he says.

Physicians also will need to have conversations with their patients so that everyone understands the new regulatory paradigm, and it will involve more shared decision-making. Healthcare attorney Steve Gravely, who has been involved in helping the healthcare industry for decades, has made extensive compliance information available about the rule on his website, unpacking it and putting it into plain language. His partner, Cait Riccobono, says the website is designed to make things “quick and digestible.”

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