Commenting today on the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology’s proposed rule on interoperability, information blocking and the Health IT Certification Program, AHA urged the agency to consider ways to help patients get easy access to their data without sacrificing their control or the protections HIPAA offers. “We are deeply concerned that third-party applications and tools not governed by HIPAA are increasingly accessing patient data and using it in ways in which patients likely are unaware,” AHA wrote. “Patients’ data is their own, and no organization, whether regulated by HIPAA or not, should be allowed to capitalize and monetize their data without the patient fully understanding what is occurring and agreeing to it.” 

The AHA expressed several significant concerns about a number of the ideas floated in the proposed rule especially as it relates to the definition of electronic health information and the disclosure of certain financial data that could adversely impact patients. The AHA said it believes that ONC’s interpretation of what may be included in the definition of EHI goes well beyond what Congress intended and that “ONC lacks authority to include price information – a term it leaves undefined – in the definition of EHI for purposes of determining what constitutes information blocking.”

The association also expressed concern that the burden of proof placed on hospitals and health systems to demonstrate that they did not information block “is much too great, and much too vague,” and urged the agency to provide at least 18 months to implement any final information blocking provisions.

In comments submitted to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services for a separate proposed rule related to health information, AHA said it supports the agency’s intent to expand the ability of hospitals and health systems, health plans and others to share information useful in ensuring patients get the care they need and that the care is safe and efficient. However, “we believe the desire for greater interoperability of information exceeds the infrastructure currently in place.” In addition, AHA said the conditions of participation for hospitals, critical access hospitals and psychiatric hospitals are not the right vehicle to use in prompting hospitals to be interoperable. “The AHA urges CMS not to finalize the provision in this proposed rule that would make the electronic exchange of admission, discharge and transfer information a CoP and to delay the provisions for the sharing of information by various kinds of health plans until feasible,” the association said. 
 

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