CMS and ONC Release Proposed Rules on Data Exchange and Interoperability

CMS and ONC Release Proposed Rules on Data Exchange and Interoperability

Federal health officials have released their long-awaited proposed rules to improve the interoperability of health information, which they hope will support seamless and secure access, exchange, and use of electronic health information.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) released its “Interoperability and Patient Access Proposed Rule,” which proposes changes to the healthcare system to support the goals of the MyHealthEData initiative, and would increase the flow of health information, reduce burden on patients and providers, and foster innovation by unleashing data for researchers and innovators, according to a CMS press release.

Additionally, the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT put forth its own proposed rule that implements provisions of the 21st Century Cures Act that aims to deter and penalize information blocking by outlining seven proposed exceptions to its definition under the law. It is designed to increase innovation and competition by giving patients and their healthcare providers secure access to health information and to new tools, allowing for more choice in care and treatment. It calls on the healthcare industry to adopt standardized application programming interfaces (APIs), which would allow individuals to securely and easily access structured electronic health information using applications for smartphones and other mobile devices, an ONC press release states.

“At first glance, we are pleased that ONC’s information blocking rule acknowledges in its exceptions the importance of promoting the privacy and security of electronic health information, which is a core tenet of the HIM profession,” said AHIMA CEO Wylecia Wiggs Harris, PhD, CAE. “Additionally, we are pleased that CMS’s proposed rule includes a request for information on leveraging CMS’s authority to improve patient identification. Accurately identifying patients and matching them to their data is essential to coordination of care and a requirement for health system transformation, as well as the continuation of our substantial progress toward nationwide interoperability.”

CMS, which has published its proposed rule in the Federal Register, is accepting comments until early April. CMS is also seeking Requests for Information to obtain feedback on interoperability and health information technology (health IT) adoption in Post-Acute Care (PAC) settings, and the role of patient matching in interoperability and improved patient care.

While the ONC proposed rule has not yet been sent to the Federal Register,  fact sheets on the proposed rule are available here.

Mary Butler is the associate editor at Journal of AHIMA.
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