April 06, 2021
Healthcare Organizations Unready for ONC Cures Act Final Rule
Survey from Life Image Shows Widespread Lack of Awareness and Readiness to Comply with Federal Mandate by April 5, 2021 Enforcement Date
BOSTON – April 6, 2021 – Life Image, the world’s largest medical evidence network for clinical and imaging data, today released findings of its survey investigating the healthcare industry’s preparedness to comply with the Information Blocking and Improving Interoperability provisions of the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC) Final Rule of the 2016 Cures Act, which will be enforced starting April 5, 2021. Findings from the survey, sent in March 2021 to nearly 4,000 clinical, technology and administrative leaders from provider, payer, IT, and other organizations, demonstrate a broad lack of awareness and readiness to comply with the federal information blocking rules, meaning many organizations do not meet basic interoperability standards. The survey also indicates general confusion around the rule requirements and the specific steps organizations must take to prepare.
The final ONC rules aim to improve electronic access, exchange, and use of health information, granting patients ownership of their health data without special effort or additional cost. While 70% of participants in the Life Image survey stated they were aware of the rules going into effect, up to half of the same individuals also reported using practices that are defined by ONC as information blocking and will be noncompliant under the new rules – such as sharing records via paper or CDs, or charging patients fees to obtain records.
Additional notable findings from the Life Image survey include:
• Nearly half of the respondents had either not made any changes or did not know how to ensure their facility meets all of the rule requirements
• A majority of healthcare organizations reported not using digital solutions to share healthcare data with patients, with 66% still using paper and 32% using CDs
• 47% were not familiar with the term “information blocking”
• 48% were not aware of practices or policies that would be considered “information blocking”
• 39% did not know they could incur civil monetary penalties for information blocking practices
• 15% currently charge $25 or more for patients to obtain records
“Our recent survey validates what Life Image has been witnessing across the healthcare ecosystem in terms of interoperability readiness. While the COVID-19 pandemic created massive challenges and delayed many interoperability initiatives, it also underscored the paramount importance of the final ONC rules for advancing patient care and driving innovation,” said Matthew A. Michela, President and CEO, Life Image. “As many organizations are facing a long, complicated journey to ONC compliance, we’re dedicated to helping the industry navigate this new data revolution.”
Under HIPAA 45 CFR § 164.524, providers must give patients, upon request, access to their protected health information in the form and format of the individual’s choosing, including electronic format and via third-party application. In order to address ongoing industry resistance and barriers to interoperability, in March 2020 the ONC released the Final Cures Act Rule, which is grounded in the 21st Century Cures Act and mandates that patients be allowed greater control and access to their health data, targeting vendors and technologies that block information access.
David Schoolcraft, Partner and Chair of the Digital Health Group at Ogden Murphy Wallace, sees this as a pivotal moment for healthcare’s digital transformation. “This landmark regulation is also a massive undertaking as many stakeholders are currently non-compliant and are struggling to navigate the regulatory complexities,” he said. “As ONC starts enforcement, organizations must prioritize deepening their knowledge of these mandates and implementing changes to adapt to the evolving landscape, or run the risk of incurring significant penalties.”
Life Image began working to solve healthcare’s interoperability challenges nearly 15 years ago, developing a digital platform with applications using common standards to streamline the rapid exchange of medical images and related data. The company is now the largest global medical evidence network specializing in the sharing of imaging data and related clinical information. It offers a mature technical solution used by 90% of the top hospitals in the United States.