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Information blocking is any practice or set of procedures that prevents the easy access of patient data by either the patient or other healthcare providers.

The reason for the information blocking rules is to ensure that patients can access their data and that no harm can come to patients because of an inability to access their data, whether the block is affecting them or another healthcare provider.

Information blocking details are part of the 21st Century Cures Act. The Act lists the many things a provider or other person known as an “Actor” cannot do to impede the ability to access and transfer data between health providers or from health provider to patient. Some of the most common examples of information blocking include:

Any policies or procedures that require healthcare personnel to get a patient or caregiver’s written consent before sharing an individual’s Electronic Health Information (EHI) with another provider (including unaffiliated providers) for treatment.

Contractual blocks

Contracts that prevent sharing of EHI or limits sharing EHI with patients, their healthcare providers, or other allowed third parties who need access to facilitate patient care or follow-up (or services related to patient care.)

Inaccessible data systems or formats

Locking in patients or healthcare providers to a specific and gated technology or healthcare network because EHI isn’t portable or standardized to allow sharing easily.

Slow response

Taking several days to respond and not providing same-day access to EHI in a form and format requested by a patient or a patient’s healthcare provider, when the capability exists to comply immediately.

What are the consequences of information blocking?

Information blocking negatively impacts a wide range of people across the patient care chain. Such impacts can include wasted time, increased costs and duplicate tests among other things.

Restricted patient access

Patients can experience issues accessing or reading their own information. It is vital for patients to have access to their own medical records so they can review their diagnoses and medications and bring up any concerns about their treatment plan or upcoming procedures with their doctor.

Restricted provider access

Doctors and specialists can run into difficulty finding out important information on a new patient or a referral if they can’t quickly and easily access pertinent records. This can lead to delays in treatment or miscommunications that can cause harm to a patient.

Restricted third party access

Laboratories and testing facilities can find themselves forced to delay a test or scan if they can’t access the correct patient information or if the patient’s information is wrong. This can lead to a missed appointment that has to be rescheduled.

Expensive penalties

Besides these practical problems, health care providers may eventually have to pay a financial penalty for information blocking. So far, there have been no penalties assessed, but it is an allowed action and the proposed penalty could total up to $1 million for each infraction.

How can information blocking be avoided?
You can help minimize your risk of information blocking by following these steps:

  • Update all relevant portions of your Privacy Policy and HIPAA manual to reflect the latest requirements under the Cures Act.

  • Change any policies that require patients to request records in writing.

  • Remove any charges to patients for access to electronic health information.

  • Verify that your vendors are also in line with the new policies.

  • Appropriately account for your new policies above.

How CINs/HIEs help to alleviate information blocking

By adopting certain standards and structures, you can maximize your ability to share data securely and easily. Working as part of a CIN and integrating with an HIE can help you maintain patient data privacy and facilitate ease of access.

What is a CIN?

A CIN is a group of physicians and other healthcare providers who choose to join to make information sharing easier while providing better quality care for patients and lowering the overall cost of care.

By forming or joining a CIN, you can help streamline your entire organization, and make partnering with other healthcare providers easy. You’ll be able to grow your practice, lab or clinic and form strong relationships with patients and referring providers.

Another good thing about CINs is that they can work equally well for smaller providers and enterprises. Being part of a CIN benefits those with four or five providers grouped together, as well as it does a larger network, and can scale.

CINs make it easier to share data because everyone in the CIN has access to the same EHI database. They can access and share patient data back and forth within the CIN and with patients and unaffiliated, but allowed third parties

What is an HIE?

A health information exchange creates straightforward paths for information to travel on, allowing requests to be delivered to the exchange and information gathered from the correct source and sent in reply.

An integration with an HIE allows you to quickly and efficiently reply to records requests, start records transfers, and safeguard patient information throughout the process. It’s the ideal way to manage data sharing in a healthcare setting.

Another benefit of being part of a larger HIE is the ability to revamp your EHR to be more accessible and to get data almost instantly and add it to your own files when onboarding a new patient or accepting a referral.

HIEs make it easier to share data because everyone connected to the HIE can access the same EHI and connect with anyone else in the network. External parties connected to similar networks can also make connections to the main HIE and receive urgently needed EHI.

Where Tangible fits in
Tangible provides a firm foundation for compliance with information blocking rules. Our Integration Platform as a Service (iPaaS) solution integrates seamlessly with multiple networks and exchanges. To learn more about how Tangible can integrate with your CIN and/or HIE and help you comply with info-blocking regulations, contact us today.

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