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Patient Access Makes Headlines (Again)

The Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society ("HIMSS") conference took place earlier this month. During his session at the conference, OCR Director Roger Severino announced a new enforcement initiative emphasizing compliance with patients' rights of access to their health information. When asked to comment on this announcement, an HHS spokesperson stated that the enforcement will be through compliance reviews initiated by the Office for Civil Rights ("OCR").

Severino's announcement coincided with, but is likely distinct from, the 21st Century Cures Act: Interoperability, Information Blocking, and Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology ("ONC") Health IT Certification Program proposed rule released midmonth in anticipation of an early March publication date. In the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, HHS and ONC proposed an update to its electronic health information export criteria. The change would require such certified health IT to enable the export of an individual's electronic health information upon valid request from that patient or a user on behalf of the patient.

Whether it comes from OCR or ONC, HHS offices are interested in ensuring patients have access to their health information. It has been almost three years since OCR published its guidance on patient access. It appears, however, that access issues continue. Covered entities may consider reviewing internal policies and procedures to ensure they are not considered roadblocks to such access.

Abby T. Mohs

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