Nearly one year ago, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services launched new information blocking regulations aimed at easing access to electronic health information by patients and other requesters. A new HHS study provides the first glimpse of the shape of info blocking complaints: They're mostly from patients and predominantly aimed at providers, rather than at health IT developers or other stakeholders.
The report reveals that while there hasn't been an avalanche of complaints so far, among the 299 received, nearly all — 274 — were deemed to be on-target as claims of possible information blocking. An overwhelming majority of the complaints were registered by patients — 176 compared with 42 from attorneys, 32 from health care providers, 32 from third-party entities, and the remaining 39 from a mix of health IT developers, health information networks or exchanges, and "unknown" entities. Health care providers were the targets of 211 complaints, followed by health IT developers at 42, and "non-actors" — entities not specifically defined in the info blocking regulations — at 15.
Steve Postal, APTA senior regulatory affairs specialist, says the report shows that HHS is taking these regulations seriously, and that PTs need to be up to speed on their responsibilities — something made easier through the publication of an APTA practice advisory on the requirements.
"We haven't heard from many PTs who've been the targets or originators of info blocking complaints, but things could change as the regulations become more widely understood among the public," Postal said. "That's why it's important for providers to have a solid working knowledge of these rules right now, and to understand that HHS is intent on enforcing the regulations."
Physical therapists are among the "actors" subject to compliance with the info blocking regulations. However, exemptions are possible if a PT meets one of eight criteria. The APTA practice advisory was developed soon after the rollout of the rules and includes background on the issue, definitions, compliance tips, and links to HHS resources.
While HHS states in its regulations that there will be "appropriate disincentives" for providers found to be engaged in info blocking, details on what those might be have yet to be fleshed out. An August 2021 Healthcare Dive article quotes the head of the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT as saying "that work is now well underway," and that his office is working with the HHS Office of the Inspector General and the U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services to nail down possible consequences in future rulemaking.
To learn even more on info blocking, visit the APTA webpage devoted to the topic. In addition to the practice advisory, the page includes links to a recorded webinar, regulatory reviews, and other resources to help you understand and comply with the rules. Questions about or experiences with info blocking? Contact firstname.lastname@example.org.