The Information Blocking Rule and Its Application in Skilled Nursing Facilities White Paper

A patient checks their electronic health record.

The Information Blocking Rule was introduced as part of the 21st Century Cures Act, a bipartisan healthcare innovation law enacted in December 2016. The rule promotes health information interoperability and prohibits information blocking by “actors.” While there are many stakeholders impacted by this rule, the patient is the central focus, according to the Office of the National Coordinator of Health Information Technology.

The rule puts patients in charge of their health records, which is a key piece of patient control in healthcare. This is at the center of the Health and Human Services’ work toward a value-based healthcare system. For the American public as a whole, the final rule promotes innovation in the healthcare technology ecosystem to deliver better information, more conveniently, to patients, clinicians and payers. It also promotes transparency by providing opportunities for the American public to regain visibility in the services, quality and costs of healthcare. 

In essence, the rule is “anti-blocking” of information by:

  • Giving patients and their providers secure access to health information.
  • Requiring that patients can electronically access all of their electronic health information (EHI), structured and/or unstructured, at no cost.

This act addresses many health-related issues. However, the focus of this white paper is on compliance with the information blocking section and ensuring authorized access to EHI, particularly for those in skilled nursing facilities. It should be noted that this rule is not replacing the privacy rule, which addresses access to both electronic and paper-based protected health information. Therefore, it may be appropriate to consult the organization’s legal counsel for any potential/appearance of contradiction between this rule and HIPAA, or local privacy rules.