HIMSS News

21st Century Cures Highlight: Definitions for Interoperability and Information Blocking

With the enactment of the 21st Century Cures Act (Public Law 114-255), HIMSS plans to use the next several issues of the Health IT Policy Update to highlight the principal health IT-related topics included in the law.  This week, we are focusing on the definitions included in the new law for interoperability and information blocking.

21st Century Cures defines “Interoperability” as health IT that:

  • Enables the secure exchange of electronic health information with, and use of electronic health information

from, other health information technology without special effort on the part of the user

  • Allows for complete access, exchange, and use of all electronically accessible health information for authorized use under applicable State or Federal law
  • Does not constitute information blocking

In addition, “Information Blocking” means a practice that:

  • Is likely to interfere with, prevent, or materially discourage access, exchange, or use of electronic health information
    • If conducted by a health IT developer, exchange, or network, such developer, exchange, or network knows, or should know, that such practice is likely to interfere with, prevent, or materially discourage the access, exchange, or use of electronic health information
    • If conducted by a health care provider, such provider knows that such practice is unreasonable and is likely to interfere with, prevent, or materially discourage access, exchange, or use of electronic health information

For information blocking, the law also describes the practices that apply to the new definition.  Included are practices that restrict authorized access, exchange, or use under applicable State or Federal law for transitions between certified health IT; implementing health IT in “nonstandard ways” that is likely to substantially increase the complexity or burden of accessing, exchanging, or using electronic health information; limit exporting complete information sets; and, lead to fraud, waste, or abuse, or impede innovations and advancements in health information access, exchange, and use, including for new care delivery models. 

The law also states that the information blocking provisions in this law do not apply to any practice or conduct prior to 30 days after enactment of this law.  HHS will use the regulatory process to identify reasonable and necessary activities that do not constitute information blocking. 

Look for further analysis on this topic and other health IT provisions in 21st Century Cures in the coming weeks.