Deadline for interoperability compliance delayed

With health systems bracing for an autumn surge in cases of COVID-19, the federal government pushed back the date for health IT companies to comply with interoperability mandates stemming from the 21st Century Cures Act for a second time.

The deadline for Certified Health IT to comply with regulations related to information blocking and interoperability has been pushed back for a second time amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

The Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC), a branch of the US Department of Health and Human Services, issued an interim regulation on October 29, 2020 that deferred the enforcement of the department’s Final Rule on information blocking – the practice of interfering with access to or exchange of health information – until April 5, 2021.

The Final Rule stems from the 2016 signing of the 21st Century Cures Act (Cures Act) by President Barack Obama. The Act is considered to be the most significant piece of legislation to date that deals with issues around healthcare technology and access to electronic medical data.

The Cures Act directed the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and the ONC to develop and implement regulations that both improve the interoperability of electronic health information and address practices considered to be information blocking. The CMS Final Rule was not affected by the ONC’s extension.

The delay in compliance requirements for the Final Rule is in response to stakeholder concerns about implementing significant changes to health IT or the use of health IT while efforts are focused on the ongoing COVID-19 public health emergency.

While the delay gives developers of Certified Health IT additional time to bring their systems into compliance with the interoperability requirements of the Final Rule, the delay does not affect the requirement for providers to make health information available to patients beginning on November 2, 2020.

Developers of Certified Health IT will have until December 31, 2022 to meet the requirements for Conditions and Maintenance of Certification. Developers incorporating Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) for export of Electronic Health Information (EHI) will have until December 31, 2023 to meet certification requirements for that functionality.

Interested in learning more about the impact of the pandemic on this legislation? Download our white paper, The 21st Century Cures Act in the age of COVID-19.

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