ONC fail: EHR 'data blocking' still rampant

Joseph Conn | Modern Healthcare | April 17, 2015

Manuel Prado, president of Viva Transcription, Santa Cruz, Calif., publicly complained two years ago about the high interface fees – up to $10,000 – that electronic health record vendors charged for each hospital or physician practice they connect to his transcription service. “That's data blocking,” he charged. “If taxpayers are contributing $44,000 or $63,000 (in federal Medicare and Medicaid incentive payments) for each EHR, it's not too much to ask” that they make interconnect charges free.

More than five years after Congress in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act mandated HHS' Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT establish a “governance mechanism” for a seamless health information exchange system, the agency earlier this month confirmed that widespread “data blocking” still existed, largely due to actions by both software vendors and providers. In a report demanded by Congress, it also said that it still hasn't come up with an effective scheme for guaranteeing the free flow of electronic health records.

Growing frustration with the slow pace of making EHRs interoperable, including on Capitol Hill, has left federal officials scrambling to show they are doing something about the problem. “We would like to hear about every example – small, medium, large – when someone is getting in the way of interoperability,” Andy Slavitt, acting administrator of the CMS, said at the Health Information and Management Systems Society conference. “We want as a team to hear about these examples and confront them.”