On June 27, 2023, the Department of Health and Human Services (“HHS”) Office of Inspector General (“OIG”) issued a final rule (“OIG Final Rule”) that implements statutory provisions for its enforcement of the information blocking penalties created by the 21stCentury Cures Act (“Cures Act”) and assessment of civil money penalties (“CMPs”) of up to $1 million per violation of information blocking for certain individuals or entities subject to the information blocking requirements.Continue Reading HHS-OIG Releases Final Rule Implementing Information Blocking Penalties
Last week, the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) published an Interim Final Rule: Information Blocking and the ONC Health IT Certification Program: Extension of Compliance Dates and Timeframes in Response to the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency (Interim Final Rule) providing needed relief to entities working toward compliance. In the 21st Century Cures Act: Interoperability, Information Blocking, and the ONC Health IT Certification Program Final Rule (ONC Rule), issued on May 1, 2020, ONC defines the entities that are subject to the rule’s provisions. ONC refers to these entities as Actors. Actors include health care providers, health IT developers of certified health IT, Health Information Exchanges (HIEs), and Health Information Networks (HINs). The Interim Final Rule provides these Actors with “additional flexibilities” to implement the provisions of the ONC Rule including updated compliance dates. ONC explained that the extension is due to the outbreak of COVID-19 public health emergency; however, this will also provide ONC with additional time to provide answers to the numerous questions that the agency has received as Actors work toward compliance. ONC is accepting comments on this rule, as is typical for an interim final rule. These comments must be submitted to regulations.gov by January 4, 2021.
The Interim Final Rule extends “the applicability date for the information blocking provisions and compliance dates and timeframes for certain Program requirements, including compliance dates for certain 2015 Edition health IT certification criteria and Conditions and Maintenance of Certification requirements.” See CMS and ONC Enforcement Deadlines Chart for more information about compliance dates for the ONC Rule.
Last week, the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) finalized long-awaited regulations on Interoperability and Patient Access (the “CMS Rule”) to require Medicare Advantage plans, Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) managed care plans, state agencies, and Qualified Health Plan (QHP) issuers on federally-facilitated exchanges (“CMS Payers”) to provide patients easy access to their claims and encounter information, as well as certain clinical information, through third-party applications of their choice. On the same day, the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology finalized its rules on Interoperability, Information Blocking, and the ONC Health IT Certification Program (the “ONC Rule”) related to the 21st Century Cures Act (Cures Act). The CMS Rule and ONC Rule have far-reaching impacts.
As individuals and organizations covered by the rules are considering how they may facilitate their access to health information to support patients, health care providers, and others, it is important to understand when provisions in the rules will be effective and timing and what acts may constitute violations of these rules. To help clients get familiar with these deadlines, we are providing this summary chart of compliance requirements and applicable deadlines to help your organization prepare for upcoming enforcement of the ONC Rule and the CMS Rule. For legal advice tailored to the specific needs of your organization, please reach out to Jodi Daniel, head of the firm’s Digital Health Practice at email@example.com.
As you read the chart, you should keep the following in mind:Continue Reading Compliance Reference Chart for ONC and CMS Interoperability Rules
Electronic health record (EHR) vendor Allscripts recently disclosed on an earnings call that it has reached a tentative agreement with the Department of Justice (DOJ) to pay $145 million to settle an investigation into the regulatory compliance of one of its recent acquisitions, Practice Fusion. This news, combined with DOJ’s other recent successful enforcement actions against EHR companies, represents a trend and should be a warning that compliance is a priority when it comes health IT. We anticipate that there will be more Anti-Kickback, HIPAA, and False Claims Act cases against similar health IT targets in the pipeline.
Allscripts acquired Practice Fusion, also an electronic health record company, in February 2018. According to the company’s public SEC filing from the first quarter of 2019, the investigation “relates to both the certification Practice Fusion obtained in connection with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Electronic Health Record Incentive Program and Practice Fusion’s compliance with the Anti-Kickback Statute and HIPAA.”Continue Reading Allscripts Close to Reaching Deal with DOJ for Health IT Certification, Anti-Kickback Statute, and HIPAA Issues
A patient has an emergency and goes to a hospital she knows is in her plan’s network. She receives treatment. She leaves the hospital. Weeks later, she receives a medical bill for tens of thousands of dollars. Unbeknownst to her, some or all of her treating doctors were out-of-network.
This all-too-common story has contributed to a significant medical debt crisis in this country, and has captured the attention of policymakers on all sides of the political spectrum—leading to the rare circumstance of executive and legislative alignment and the potential for bipartisan legislative action.
Proponents of price transparency hope that it will improve competition and allow patients to better understand their financial responsibility ahead of receiving services. The idea is that disclosing prices to individuals will incentivize them to “shop around” for health care services, which may drive down costs. On the other hand, opponents of price transparency argue that releasing such information could compromise bargaining leverage between third party payers and providers, and have the effect of driving up prices since information exchanges in concentrated markets can lead to tacit coordination that’s difficult to detect and punish under the antitrust laws.Continue Reading Trump Administration and Congress Are Moving Quickly on Health Care Price Transparency and Lowering Costs
In order to move health care organizations towards consistency in mitigating important cybersecurity threats to the health care sector, the Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) published multiple guidance documents on best practices for health care organizations to reduce cybersecurity risks (“HHS Cyber Guidance”). The HHS Cyber Guidance is the result of HHS’ public-private partnership with more than 150 cybersecurity and health care experts. While compliance is voluntary, this guidance serves as direction to health care entities on important practices that should be considered and implemented to reduce risk.
Why HHS has published this guidanceContinue Reading HHS Releases Voluntary Cybersecurity Practices Guidance
As we await proposed HHS regulations on interoperability and patient access to data, and as more companies than ever before are collecting and using data to power advanced data analytics, artificial intelligence, and machine learning to improve health care quality and delivery, it is important to understand the scope and limitation of protections and the applicability of the HIPAA Privacy Rule.
Patients, providers and caregivers now have access to a wide array of devices and applications to manage and track patient health, improve treatment adherence, and better coordinate care. Large technology companies, athletic gear manufacturers, and others are entering a rapidly growing consumer health technology market. They are developing new technologies including tracking apps, wearables, and social networks that are increasingly integrated into patients’ daily lives. With an estimated 86.7 million U.S. consumers owning wearable devices by 2019, patients are generating billions of data points that provide insight into their health. Yet many of these companies are not subject to existing privacy protections under HIPAA, creating a significant gap in consumer protections.
At the same time, HHS is pushing for greater interoperability and patient access to data to address a challenge that remains widespread even after the investment of billions of federal dollars into the adoption of electronic health records. Agencies are encouraging and mandating easier availability of electronic health data, through current and anticipated CMS and ONC regulations and through a variety of government initiatives such as: 1) Blue Button and MyHealtheData; 2) incentivizing the adoption of open APIs; 3) developing new fee-for-service payment policies regarding remote monitoring and virtual care reimbursement; and 4) launching Sync for Science, a technical standard for facilitating patient-mediated data exchange for research. Consumers and companies alike seek guidance on the implications of collecting, storing, maintaining, and commercializing personal health data.
Continue Reading Closing the Health Information Privacy Divide
Our healthcare system is in the midst of a fundamental shift toward value-based care to drive down costs and improve the quality of care. We won’t be able to achieve that goal without technology that allows providers to collect and use health data and puts patients front and center. Patient access to clinical and claims data is essential. When patients have access to their own information, they can better understand their condition and feel empowered to ask questions and shape their own care plan.
Congress and the federal government are pushing to liberate data from within the healthcare system and to promote patient access to health information. However, it is equally important to focus on the flow of data from the patient back into the healthcare system. The patient – who is gathering data at home, managing her condition, and making day-to-day decisions that impact her health – holds information that is critical to treatment decisions and outcome improvements.
Continue Reading Transforming the Patient-Provider Relationship: A Comprehensive Approach to Patient Access and Patient-Generated Health Data
Building on momentum from Administrator Seema Verma’s announcement of the MyHealtheData initiative at HIMSS 2018, CMS has published more clues as to future action to liberate health information for patients.
On March 6, 2018 at the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) 2018 conference, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) Administrator Seema Verma announced a new initiative furthering the current Administration’s focus on value-based care and increasing patient access to healthcare data. The initiative — called MyHealthEData — will be led by the White House Office of American Innovation, in collaboration with the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), CMS, the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC), the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). (CMS press release here.)
Continue Reading Liberating Data to Transform Value-Based Care: MyHealthEData, Blue Button 2.0, and Price Transparency