The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services is outlining how it intends to have physicians groups attest that they are not blocking the exchange of patient information through electronic health records.

The federal agency issued the guidance for physician groups that will be participating in new payment methods for Medicare starting in 2018. The push is part of its effort to ensure that the flow of electronic health information is not restricted or held hostage by any provider organization or information technology vendor’s system.

The CMS guidance tells practices what they’ll need to attest to in order to demonstrate compliance. Practices will be required to sign a “Prevention of Information Blocking Attestation” to get a score for the advancing care information component of the Quality Payment Program under the Merit-based Incentive Payment System (MIPS).

“To prevent actions that block the exchange of health information, the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015 (MACRA) and the Quality Payment Program final rule with comment period require MIPS eligible clinicians to show that they have not knowingly and willfully limited or restricted the compatibility or interoperability of their certified electronic health record (EHR) technology,” the guidance notes.

Also See: Health IT Now calls for rule to prevent information blocking

Group practices that want to participate in the program must attest in order to demonstrate that they are acting “in good faith when you implement and use your CEHRT to exchange electronic health information,” the CMS guidance notes. “This includes working with technology developers and others who build CEHRT to make sure the technology is used correctly and is connected (and enabled) to meet applicable standards and laws.”

MIPS-eligible clinicians must attest that they are meeting this requirement by attesting to three statements about how they implement and use certified EHR technology. These requirements include:

  • The MIPS-eligible clinician did not willfully take action “such as to disable functionality” to limit or restrict compatibility or interoperability of certified EHR technology.
  • The MIPS-eligible clinician must use technologies, standards, policies, practices and agreements “reasonably calculated to ensure, to the greatest extent practicable and permitted by law,” that the technology was implemented to use standards and in a manner to allow the exchange of electronic health information.
  • The clinician must respond in good faith and in a timely manner to requests to retrieve or exchange electronic health information, including from patients and healthcare providers.

The CMS guidance says the agency will not require providers to show documentation in order to attest to the information blocking requirements.

The agency also says it’s not expecting physician groups to have specific technical expertise to implement information sharing technologies.

“We do not expect you to have any special technical skills or to personally deal with the technical details of implementing your health IT,” the guidance notes. “We do expect that you take reasonable steps to ensure that you can attest that you meet the conditions described. To be clear, you should inform health IT developers, implementers, and others who are responsible for implementing and configuring your CEHRT of the requirements.”

The CMS guidance can be found here.

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