Feds Extend Comment Period for Interoperability Proposed Rules

April 19, 2019
Industry stakeholders will now have until June 3 to review the two aligned rules from CMS and ONC

Health IT stakeholders now have at least one of their wishes granted: federal officials have agreed to extend the comment period for the government’s two recently proposed rules on interoperability and patient access by 30 days.

In February, the government released two proposed rules—one from the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC) and one from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS)—that were separate, but at the same time very much aligned. Broadly, the two proposals—about 1,200 pages combined—look to further advance the nation’s healthcare interoperability progress. They represent great significance for health IT stakeholders, who will now be more under the microscope than ever before as it relates to their efforts in making sure that health information is seamlessly moving—while not restricting such efforts.

Following the release of the proposals, trade groups such as the American Medical Association (AMA), the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives (CHIME), Premier, the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA), and more than a dozen others, wrote to government officials asking for more time to review the rules and properly comment.

The groups wrote in a letter to CMS and ONC that the proposed rules “are comprehensive, detailed and intertwined. They contain provisions with far-reaching implications for virtually all stakeholders in our healthcare system. An extension of the comment period will provide more adequate time to allow thoughtful analysis of the proposed rules and their impacts and to fully address the proposed rules’ multiple requests for comments and information embedded within the documents.”

Now, the new June 3 deadline is a response “to requests from a variety of stakeholders, including healthcare provider organizations and industry representatives,” federal officials said in an April 19 announcement. “CMS and ONC understand that both rules include a range of issues having major effects on healthcare. The extension of the public comment deadline will maximize the opportunity for meaningful input and further the overall objective to obtain public input on the proposed provisions to move the healthcare ecosystem in the direction of interoperability,” they added.

Certain elements of the regulations that will likely require close examination include strict provisions around information blocking, and what might qualify as an exception, as per ONC. CMS, meanwhile, is also requiring that federal health plans allow their patients to obtain their data through an API (application programming interface). Both rules also propose to require the use of the FHIR (Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources) standard for APIs.

The Charlotte-based Premier has already released a statement applauding the extension, noting, “This is too important to not get right.”

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