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HHS Delays Enforcement of New Interoperability and Information Sharing Rules

The HHS will be exercising enforcement discretion in relation to compliance with the new interoperability and information sharing rules that were finalized and issued by the HHS’ Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and the HHS’ Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC) on March 9, 2020.

The decision to delay enforcement is due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The CMS, ONC, and HHS’ Office of Inspector General (OIG) believe that during a pandemic of the magnitude of COVID-19, healthcare organizations need to be given some flexibility complying with the new interoperability and information sharing rules.

The dates for compliance with the new rules remain unchanged, although both agencies will be exercising enforcement discretion to allow healthcare organizations to continue to focus their efforts on addressing the COVID-19 pandemic.

“ONC remains committed to ensuring that patients and providers can access electronic health information, when and where it matters most. During this critical time, we understand that resources need to be focused on fighting the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Donald Rucker, MD, National Coordinator for Health Information Technology. “To support that important work and the information sharing efforts we are already seeing, ONC intends to exercise enforcement discretion for 3 months at the end of certain ONC Health IT Certification Program compliance dates associated with the ONC Cures Act Final Rule to provide flexibility while ensuring the goals of the rule remain on track.”

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The compliance dates and ONC’s enforcement discretion dates and timeframes can be viewed on this link.

The CMS is giving healthcare organizations an additional 6 months to comply with its rule. “Now more than ever, patients need secure access to their healthcare data. Hospitals should be doing everything in their power to ensure that patients get appropriate follow-up care,” said CMS Administrator, Seema Verma. “Nevertheless, in a pandemic of this magnitude, flexibility is paramount for a healthcare system under siege by COVID-19. Our action today will provide hospitals an additional 6 months to implement the new requirements.”

The CMS, ONC, and OIG will continue to monitor the implementation landscape to determine if any further action is needed.

Author: Steve Alder is the editor-in-chief of HIPAA Journal. Steve is responsible for editorial policy regarding the topics covered on HIPAA Journal. He is a specialist on healthcare industry legal and regulatory affairs, and has several years of experience writing about HIPAA and other related legal topics. Steve has developed a deep understanding of regulatory issues surrounding the use of information technology in the healthcare industry and has written hundreds of articles on HIPAA-related topics.