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Are Pending ONC Health Data Blocking Rules More or Less a Moot Point?

October 15, 2018 / Jennifer Bresnick

The Cures Act, signed into law by President Obama at the tail end of 2016, warns of steep financial penalties for electronic health record vendors caught in the act of preventing data exchange for competitive or business purposes, and hints at similar punishments for providers engaging in data hoarding behaviors. But the legislation omitted a few crucial details. While Congress sketched out a general definition of information blocking, using terms such as “[actions] likely to interfere with…use of electronic health information” and “unreasonable practices,” lawmakers have left it up to the ONC to define what those phrases should actually mean in the real world. It’s a tall order for the regulatory agency, especially since officials more or less admitted in their bombshell 2015 report that anecdotes and hard-to-prove accusations comprised much of its evidence that information blocking even exists as a competitive business practice.