With the knowledge that information blocking harms the healthcare system, James A. Cannatti III, Senior Counselor for the Health IT Office of the Inspector General (OIG) https://oig.hhs.gov within HHS, presented testimony at the Senate HELP Committee https://www.help.senate.gov hearing “Implementation of the 21st Century Cures Act: Achieving the Promise of Health IT”.
He said, “In general terms, information blocking is a practice that inappropriately impedes the flow or use of information. It affects the availability of information when and where it is needed which is a critical element in a high functioning healthcare system.”
He told the Committee how information blocking poses a threat to patient safety and undermines efforts by providers, payers, and others to make our healthcare system more efficient and effective.
With the passage of the Cures Act December 2016, Congress gave OIG new authorities that will allow OIG to address the issue of information blocking more directly. The Cures Act added a section that gives OIG specific authority to investigate claims that if certain parties are blocking information needed by health information technology developers, healthcare providers, and others, then penalties will be engaged.
OIG is working with stakeholders in industry and other private stakeholders and as a result, more than a dozen stakeholder meetings have been held with representatives from a wide cross section of the healthcare and technology communities to work on this important issue.
OIG has met with federal partners to include ONC www.healthit.gov, CMS www.cms.gov, the HHS Office for Civil Rights, https://www.hhs.gov/ocr and the Federal Trade Commission www.ftc.gov to discuss what needs to be done.
According to Cannatti, “OIG is not only working with HHS partners but also receives input from private stakeholders to implement an enforcement approach to not only deter information blocking but importantly, hold wrongdoers accountable.