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Legal Update

HHS delays major data sharing deadline due to pandemic

By Mohana Ravindranath

10/29/2020 12:05 PM EDT

Health care providers, IT developers and health information exchanges will now have more time to comply with a federal rule aimed at removing hurdles for transmitting patient data, HHS said on Thursday.

The department’s National Coordinator for Health IT extended the compliance deadline for information blocking until April 5, 2021. Providers were facing a Monday deadline to comply. That deadline had been extended six months due to the coronavirus pandemic.

While there’s “strong support” for the measure, health care organizations “also must manage the needs being experienced during the current pandemic,” Don Rucker, national coordinator for health IT, said in a statement. He emphasized that the department was only allowing more time for compliance and wasn’t removing any requirements.

The deadlines for meeting health IT certification standards and for adopting standards for allowing patient data to flow into apps were also extended until Dec. 31, 2022, among other delays.

The background: HHS’ data sharing measures stem from the 21st Century Cures Act, a sweeping health law that banned health organizations from interfering with the transfer of patient data and clinical notes. ONC released a final rule in March outlining certain exceptions, including instances in which sharing data leads to patient harm.

Several health care provider groups had called for the extension in the weeks leading up to the Nov. 2 deadline, warning that the technical requirements would take focus and resources away from patient care during a pandemic; some patient advocates worried that delaying compliance would make it harder for them to access their own data during a public health crisis.

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