News | Electronic Medical Records (EMR) | April 19, 2019

HHS Extends Comment Period for Proposed Electronic Health Information Interoperability Rules

The public now has until June 3, 2019, to register comments on proposed rules to improve ease of information access for patients and providers

HHS Extends Comment Period for Proposed Electronic Health Information Interoperability Rules

April 19, 2019 — The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is extending the public comment period by 30 days for two proposed regulations aimed at promoting the interoperability of health information technology (health IT) and enabling patients to electronically access their health information. The new deadline for the submission of comments – June 3, 2019 – will allow additional time for the public to review the proposed regulations.

The extension of the public comment period coincides with a release by the HHS Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) of the second draft of the Trusted Exchange Framework and Common Agreement, along with a related Notice of Funding Opportunity. HHS also released of a set of frequently asked questions (FAQs) from the Office for Civil Rights (OCR).

The FAQs address the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) right of access as it relates to apps designated by individual patients and application programming interfaces (APIs) used by a healthcare provider’s electronic health record (EHR) system. The FAQs clarify that once protected health information has been shared with a third-party app, as directed by the individual, the HIPAA covered entity will not be liable under HIPAA for subsequent use or disclosure of electronic protected health information, provided the app developer is not itself a business associate of a covered entity or other business associate.

On Feb. 11, 2019, HHS announced two proposed rules to support the seamless and secure access, exchange and use of electronic health information (with Federal Register publication on March 4, 2019). The rules would increase choice and competition while fostering innovation that promotes patient electronic access to and control over their health information. Together, the proposed rules address both technical and healthcare industry factors that create barriers to the interoperability of health information and limit a patient’s ability to access essential health information. Addressing those challenges will help to drive an interoperable health IT infrastructure across systems, enabling healthcare providers and patients to have access to health data when and where it is needed.

This extension responds to requests from a variety of stakeholders, including healthcare provider organizations and industry representatives. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) and ONC understand that both rules include a range of issues having major effects on healthcare. The extension of the public comment deadline will maximize the opportunity for meaningful input and further the overall objective to obtain public input on the proposed provisions to move the healthcare ecosystem in the direction of interoperability.

For more information: www.healthit.gov

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