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EHRA Holds its Ground in Response to ONC Information Blocking Report

November 16, 2015
by Rajiv Leventhal
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The HIMSS EHR Association (EHRA) has provided some more clarification on its position regarding the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT’s (ONC) report on information blocking that it released this past April.

The April ONC report detailed several examples of electronic health record (EHR) developers and health systems blocking health information sharing between each other. The act of information blocking occurs when an entity or person knowingly and unreasonably interferes with the exchange of electronic health information.

In October, EHRA, comprised of nearly 40 electronic health record vendors, called the ONC report into question, saying that “the concept of ‘information blocking’ is still very heterogeneous, mixing perception, descriptive, and normative issues in ways that are not easily untangled.  As a result, this concept and ‘label’ does not provide a good basis yet for policy actions or enforcement, as it could encompass a broad range of actions, few of which are likely to warrant civil or other penalties,” EHRA said at the time.

Now, in a more recent statement on its blog, EHRA has held its ground in response to “press coverage characterizing its comments as negative.” EHRA says that it clarified that charging for interface software and services should not be considered information blocking, as there are real costs incurred by EHR developers and other health IT companies in building and maintaining interfaces. It also reiterated its support for a standards-based approach to connectivity which, over time, can reduce these costs.  “But we also pointed out that there are a large number of stakeholders – e.g., public health agencies – which are not compelled to use the same standards; until they are, systemic costs will continue to be higher than necessary,” the statement says.

The post continues, “EHRA has seen evidence that provider and patient demand for data exchange is growing, primarily driven by new payment and delivery models, as well as increased patient engagement.  Over time, as these new financial systems gain traction, this will reduce any perverse incentives to block information that may exist, and instead focus provider organizations and software developers more clearly on addressing current interoperability challenges.”

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