• Viewpoint: 8 Tips to Train Yourself and Your Staff for Information Blocking Compliance


    Viewpoint is a column created by AAOE® specifically for ophthalmologists and leaders in practice management.

    Although federal information blocking regulations went into effect last year, compliance is still an area of confusion for many clinicians and practices. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services rules are aimed at ensuring that health care providers or systems make health care data accessible to patients and their providers.

    Here are some tips on how to get yourself in line with information sharing requirements.

    1. Get informed.
    Review the information blocking rule using trusted sources of information. We recommend the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) Information Blocking Factsheets and FAQs. You can also review a Marsden Advisors webinar the Academy posted last year when the requirements went into effect. 

    2. Review your information sharing policies.
    Make sure your policies don’t unnecessarily limit the sharing of electronic health information.* As a general rule of thumb, make it as easy as possible, while still complying to HIPAA, for your patients and the care team to get electronic health information.

    3. Don’t charge patients.
    Make sure your staff knows that electronic health information, with only limited exceptions, should be free to patients and other providers in the care team. 

    4. Write or purchase an information blocking compliance policy.
    Much like HIPAA policies, it is important to have your policies written down and to ensure your staff reads the policies and signs them. 

    5. Hold a staff meeting specifically on information blocking. 
    After distributing your new information blocking policies, make sure your staff has an opportunity to ask questions. Ask staff to provide you with common scenarios and workflows that occur when electronic health information is requested by patients or providers. Use this meeting as an opportunity to workshop new workflows that comply with the new regulations.

    6. Establish workflows.
    Using the scenarios and workflows discussed, create written workflows for staff to follow for common scenarios in which electronic health information is requested. Ensure that there is a form for staff to fill out in situations in which exceptions apply. Keep these in the respective patients’ files.

    7. Distribute and post the new workflows. 
    Make sure all staff, including providers, are aware of and provided with the new workflows. It is also helpful to make the workflows available on paper in areas where they will most frequently need to be referenced.

    8. Appoint an information blocking compliance officer.
    Much like with HIPAA, it is best to have a designated person at your practice coordinating your information blocking compliance activities. Ensure that this person is listed on your policies or workflows. This is the person staff will ask as compliance questions arise.

    *Examples of non-compliant policies may include a policy to delay posting results to the patient portal until reviewed by a clinician, not allowing patients to request their information be sent from your EHR to third party applications, requiring patients to fill out request forms not required by law, or requiring patients to fill out such forms in a specific way without offering flexibility.

    About the Author

    Jessica Peterson, MD, MPH, is a health care quality and IT policy expert. Through her leadership in professional medical societies, she has become a leading expert on the Quality Payment Program and health IT policy and implementation, including 21st Century Cures information blocking and interoperability. Combined with experience in EHR go-lives and using EHRs in patient care, she has a unique understanding of regulatory implementation and the health IT market. She is vice president of health policy at MarsdenAdvisors, a boutique consulting firm focused on making the practice of medicine easier. You can reach her at Jessica@marsdenadvisors.com.