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Federal Healthcare Agencies Aim to Prioritize Information Blocking Enforcement in 2022

The United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) leadership announced during last week’s HIMSS 2022 Conference that the agencies will be focusing on information blocking enforcement for the remainder of 2022.

As reported by Fierce Healthcare, Xavier Becerra, Secretary of HHS, mentioned an example of an information blocking complaint where an Information Blocking Actor (defined as health care providers, health information networks or health information exchanges, or health IT developers of certified health IT) delayed their response to a patient’s record request because a physician was on vacation.

“That’s not the kind of customer service we should expect from a 21st century healthcare system—and that’s just one of hundreds of complaints that we’ve received so far,” he said. “Put simply, closing this enforcement gap is an HHS priority. We’re working hard on this issue and will have more to share with you later this year.”

CMS Administrator Chiquita Brooks-LaSure also weighed in on enforcement during the HIMSS 2022 Conference, adding that CMS will be working with HHS and other agencies to address compliance with the Information Blocking Final Rule.

“As the largest payer in the world and the largest regulator of providers in the country, CMS has a significant interest in these penalties, and we are actively working with our partner agencies across HHS to ensure that we close this gap,” she said. “We are so grateful [for] the support from Secretary Becerra’s office in helping us address this issue for people everywhere.”

Development of “Appropriate Disincentives” For Health Care Providers

Micky Tripathi, the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology at HHS, also offered his thoughts on information blocking enforcement during the recent ViVE conference in a podcast with MM+M. Dr. Tripathi reminded listeners that the HHS Secretary would be authorized under the proposed rule to amend the Civil Monetary Penalty Law (CMP Law) regulations to impose penalties of up to $1 million per violation for health information networks, health information exchanges, and health IT developers of certified health IT. However, the proposed rule did not include penalties for health care providers and instead stated that health care providers who engage in information blocking may be subject to “appropriate disincentives,” as set forth by the Secretary of HHS.

“We are going through the process right now to define appropriate disincentives . . . and will go through normal rulemaking as required by law . . . we are working very hard on closing that piece of the enforcement gap . . . it is [currently] unfair to other actors who have penalties associated with their [violations of the information blocking rules].”

The federal agency comments follow the recent Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) information blocking claim trends report. Information Blocking Actors are now on notice that HHS, CMS, and ONC are actively monitoring information blocking claim submissions and working toward a final rule to enforce penalties for rule violations.

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Pat focuses his practice on advising health care organizations on regulatory, compliance, data privacy, and transactional matters. He is also a Certified Information Privacy Professional–US (CIPP–US).