All health care providers, including dentists, will soon be required to comply with a new federal regulation that aims to enhance a patient’s right to access their health information.
The information blocking rule prohibits providers from engaging in any practices that would make it difficult or impossible for patients to access their electronic health records. The rule went into effect April 5, 2021; however, the deadline for providers to be in full compliance with the new law has been extended for an undetermined amount of time due to the pandemic.
Under the new rule, patients will have greater and, at times, immediate access to health information. Medical records covered by the information blocking rule that must be fully accessible are:
- Consultation notes
- Discharge summary notes
- Procedures notes
- Progress notes
- Imaging report narratives
- Lab report narratives
- Pathology report narratives
- History and physical (H&P) examinations
Starting Oct. 6, 2022, the rule will apply to all information that a patient has the right to request a copy of under HIPAA.
Regulation specifies eight exceptions to the information blocking rule
While the rule grants patients full access to several medical records, it specifically excludes “psychotherapy notes,” as defined by HIPPA, as well as documents and information prepared in anticipation of litigation.
The regulation also specifies eight exceptions that permit providers to block a patient’s access to health information. Providers are not required to provide patients access to health information in certain situations and will not be penalized for doing so if the following exceptions apply:
- Preventing harm - A provider must hold a reasonable belief that blocking information will reduce a risk of harm.
- Privacy - A denial for access follows HIPAA rule or a provider is complying with an individual request not to provide access, exchange or use of their information.
- Security - Blocking information must be directly related to safeguarding the confidentiality, integrity and availability of information.
- Infeasibility - Information is blocked due to an uncontrollable event, such as a natural disaster, or because the information cannot be segmented or is infeasible due to the circumstances.
- Health information technology performance - Activity is time-limited and is solely for the purpose of maintenance or improvement to system, or a third-party app is blocked because the app is negatively impacting the actor’s health IT performance, under specified conditions.
- Licensing - Under certain conditions, a provider may license interoperability elements for electronic health information to be accessed, exchanged or used.
- Fees - Under certain conditions, a provider may charge fees for providing access to, exchanging or using electronic health information.
- Content and manner - Under certain conditions, a provider may limit the content and manner of its response to a request to access, exchange or use electronic health information.
The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology offers full descriptions of the exceptions, including explanations of specified conditions that must be satisfied before the exception will apply.
Providers are advised to review their polices and train staff on how to help patients understand when and how they can choose to access their health information. Providers should also contact their electronic health records vendors to ensure their software is certified to comply with the rule.
Additional information on the new regulation is available in CDA Practice Support’s Information Blocking Rule Q&A.