Coronavirus: CMS, ONC, HHS announces enforcement discretion on interoperability rules

The pandemic is holding off implementation of the new rules.

The Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC), the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), and the HHS Office of Inspector General (OIG) has announced a policy of enforcement discretion for implementation of the interoperability final rules, according to a release.

The release says the policy will allow for compliance flexibility for the rules, which were announced March 9, in response to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. The agencies will continue to observe the implementation landscape to decide if further action is needed.

“ONC remains committed to ensuring that patients and providers can access electronic health information, when and where it matters most,” Don Rucker, MD, National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, says in the release. “During this critical time, we understand that resources need to be focused on fighting the COVID-19 pandemic. To support that important work and the information sharing efforts we are already seeing, ONC intends to exercise enforcement discretion for 3 months at the end of certain ONC Health IT Certification Program compliance dates associated with the ONC Cures Act Final Rule to provide flexibility while ensuring the goals of the rule remain on track.”

CMS Administrator Seema Verma says in the release that the action will help ease the burden of healthcare workers fighting the pandemic.

“Now more than ever, patients need secure access to their healthcare data,” Verma says. “Hospitals should be doing everything in their power to ensure that patients get appropriate follow-up care. Nevertheless, in a pandemic of this magnitude, flexibility is paramount for a healthcare system under siege by COVID-19. Our action today will provide hospitals an additional 6 months to implement the new requirements.”

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