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What Does “Information Blocking” Really Mean?

By Jim Rowland

With the Cures Act Final Rule deadline swiftly approaching on November 2nd, 2021, it’s important that providers and healthcare IT companies understand what “information blocking” is. Healthcare IT companies should also understand how to comply with information blocking regulations to avoid monetary penalties. 

These regulations will greatly affect how electronic health records (EHRs) are used. The hope is that new standards will make it easier for healthcare providers and patients alike to utilize EHRs. Continue reading to learn more about the Cures Act and what “information blocking” really means. 

About the Cures Act

The Cures Act Final Rule is being moved forward by the Office of the National Coordinator (ONC) for Health Information Technology. The deadline has been pushed to November 2nd, 2021 due to the implications of COVID-19. The goal of the Cures Act is to give patients more control over their electronic health records. 

The core objective of the Cures Act is to implement seamless, more efficient interoperability. Electronic health information should be easily exchangeable between provider and patient as well as provider and provider. The regulations will give patients the opportunity to easily access health records on smartphone applications and to better manage healthcare costs and outcomes. 

The Cures Act will benefit healthcare providers by making EHR access requests easy to fulfill. It will also simplify and standardize the technological interface of EHR platforms. Overall, the Cures Act is meant to improve the way electronic health information is managed. 

Information Blocking Definition

The term “information blocking” refers to the interference of access, use or exchange of electronic health information. A health IT developer, healthcare provider or EHI network may be held guilty of information blocking. When patients or providers cannot access important medical records, it can negatively impact health and financial aspects of care. The Cures Act Final Rule will enforce information blocking regulations. 

Examples of Information Blocking

There are a few ways in which a healthcare IT developer may be guilty of information blocking:

  • Charging fees for patients to access information.
  • Limiting how long a provider or patient can access information for.
  • Refusal to enable patient access to software or interfaces.
  • Restrictions on authorized access, such as healthcare specialists.
  • Restricting exchange or sharing capabilities.
  • Excessive fees to export data when switching from one EHR to another.
  • Implementing non-standardized or complex technology.
  • Writing terms and conditions or contracts that limit, discourage or restrict access.

These examples only scratch the surface of how healthcare IT developers can block information. This is why it is important for healthcare providers to monitor and record any instances in which information blocking takes place and get in line with new requirements. 

8 Exceptions to Information Blocking

The Cures Act Final Rule has listed out exceptions to information blocking. There are eight total exceptions which are divided into two categories. The first are exceptions in which a request to access information is not fulfilled:

  1. If the security of the EHR interface is at risk by fulfilling the request.
  2. If the privacy of the patient is at risk by fulfilling the request.
  3. If the EHR interface is not available or has low performance because it is being updated or improved. 
  4. If the patient or someone else will be put in harm's way by fulfilling the request. 
  5. If it is considered infeasible to fulfill the request. 

The second category of exceptions are those in which procedures will not allow a request to access information:

  1. If content or the manner of the information is limited by the provider.
  2. If reasonable fees are charged for healthcare provider use and exchange.
  3. If interoperability elements are licensed for use and exchange of information. 

In order for a health IT developer or healthcare provider to block information based on one of these exceptions, certain provisions must be met and adequately recorded. 

Complying with Information Blocking Regulations

If a health IT company or developer is guilty of information blocking, they may be charged with a Civil Monetary Penalty (CMP) of up to $1 million per violation. This is why healthcare IT developers need to be certain that they are in compliance with Cures Act regulations. 

Here are a few things for health IT companies to do to ensure compliance:

  1. Analyze current compliance with Cures Act regulations through legal counsel. 
  2. Host training programs for employees on information blocking.
  3. Draft a compliance remediation plan.
  4. Adapt current software or develop new software and interfaces to fit within requirements. 
  5. Review all new actions with legal counsel to ensure complete compliance.

Healthcare providers, on the other hand, should be sure to call EHR vendors and ask how they are planning to comply with the regulations set by the Cures Act. 

Health Information Data Exports and Integrations

Many healthcare providers struggle with extracting their own EHR data for reporting or securely sharing practice and patient data with authorized third-parties and software applications. With Healthjump, connecting to your existing EHR and collecting data is made easy. Healthjump gives healthcare providers a variety of different capabilities such as:

  • Use EHR data across multiple vendor systems without costly integrations
  • Securely share data with third-party applications to modernize your practice
  • Automate the submission of test results and immunizations to state registries
  • Easily extract data and electronic health information for use in reporting and analytics

Tap to learn more about Healthjump’s services.


by Jim Rowland

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