Healthcare Groups Request HHS To Extend 21st Century Cures Act Compliance Deadline

As of October 6th, 2022, all HIPAA-regulated healthcare providers will be required to achieve full compliance with the information blocking requirements of the 21st Century Cures Act. Following October 6th, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) will be responsible for imposing financial penalties to healthcare providers who fail to facilitate patient’s access to their health information. 

The new information blocking requirements have been introduced by legislatures to improve patient access to their medical records. Information blocking is defined as any practice by an entity that is likely to interfere with the access, exchange, or use of electronic health information that is not covered by eight exceptions. As of the deadline in the beginning of October, healthcare providers must begin disclosing patient data from a selected record set, as defined by HIPAA. Prior to this, the data sharing regulations exclusively called for the disclosure of data from the USCDI. However, HHS’ secretary Xavier Becerra has been contacted by several healthcare groups via a letter raising concerns about the deadline. These include the American Health Care Association (AHCA), American Hospital Association (AHA), American Medical Association (AMA), Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), and the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives (CHIME). The letter contends that while members of these groups have made sincere efforts to comply with the new information blocking requirements, many have failed to achieve compliance. Due to these concerns, the groups have requested that the deadline be extended by one year. In addition, the healthcare groups have asked the HHS to provide warning to corrective actions before financial penalties are imposed to allow for the members to rectify any areas of noncompliance. 

In the letter, the healthcare groups express the challenges healthcare providers face when attempting to achieve compliance to the requirements. They state that, despite best efforts to educate their members, there is still confusion regarding the implementation and enforcement of information blocking regulations. The groups also take issue with the widespread inability to support access, exchange, and use of expanded electronic health information, particularly for smaller healthcare providers who rely on vendors due to their limited resources. Vendors’ attempts to comply with the new requirements are slow, with the majority planning to deliver the necessary upgrades to their clients at the end of the year, 3 months following the HHS’ deadline. 

The healthcare groups request the HHS to extend the deadline and in addition, urge the HHS’ agencies to provide better education about the information blocking requirements, particularly to smaller healthcare providers with limited resources. The letter states “without real-world guidance, providers will continue to struggle with implementing internal policies to avoid allegations of information blocking”.  Despite the letter, there are no signs that the HHS intends to extend the compliance date.