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Health Companies Get More Time to Adopt Data Sharing Rules (1)

April 21, 2020, 9:00 PMUpdated: April 21, 2020, 9:31 PM

Health tech companies are getting more time to adopt and implement rules to give patients free access to their data, the HHS said Tuesday.

The two sets of rules, by the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, are also designed to prevent medical providers and health tech vendors from improperly sharing or withholding patient health information.

The ONC won’t enforce its rules for an additional three months, and the CMS is giving providers an additional six months to comply with some of the new requirements in light of the coronavirus pandemic, according to statements from the two agencies.

“During this critical time, we understand that resources need to be focused on fighting the COVID-19 pandemic,” ONC Coordinator Don Rucker said in a statement.

CMS Administrator Seema Verma said the action reflects the agency’s ongoing efforts to ease the burden on the health-care industry. “In a pandemic of this magnitude, flexibility is paramount for a healthcare system under siege by COVID-19,” she said.

ONC’s rule, which has faced skepticism from the medical industry citing confusing definitions and exemptions to the provision that health-care companies can’t stop the exchange of patients’ digital health data, will take effect June 30.

The CMS rule requires health plans in Medicare Advantage, Medicaid, and on the federal exchanges to share claims and other health information with patients electronically through a secure application programming interface channel. That allows patients to access their data through the third-party app of their choosing and enables them to move between various health-care providers.

The ONC and CMS, alongside the HHS inspector general’s office, will continue to monitor “the implementation landscape” to see if further action is necessary, the HHS said.

(Updated with additional reporting throughout.)

To contact the reporter on this story: Ayanna Alexander in Washington at aalexander@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Fawn Johnson at fjohnson@bloomberglaw.com; Alexis Kramer at akramer@bloomberglaw.com