In today’s digital age, the healthcare industry has made significant strides in adopting digital health information (EHI) systems, promising to improve patient care, streamline processes, and foster innovation. However, a concerning trend has emerged in recent years, as evidenced by a study published in the Journal of the American Informatics Association. The study reveals that 42% of hospitals report encountering information-blocking practices that hinder the sharing of EHI. This article explores the prevalence of information blocking in healthcare, its impact on patient care, and the newfound authority of the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) to impose civil money penalties for such violations.
Understanding Information Blocking
Information blocking refers to the deliberate interference with the access, exchange, or use of EHI, often through policies or practices that hinder information sharing. Healthcare providers, Health IT developers, and Health Information Exchanges (HIEs) are among the entities that can engage in these obstructive practices. The consequences of information blocking extend far beyond individual healthcare institutions, affecting patients, providers, and the entire healthcare ecosystem.
The Impact on Patient Care
- Delays in Diagnosis and Treatment
Information blocking can lead to delays in sharing critical patient information, such as medical history, test results, and medication lists. These delays can result in incorrect diagnoses or delayed treatments, ultimately compromising patient safety and quality of care.
- Fragmented Care
Effective patient care often relies on seamless communication and coordination among healthcare providers. When information is blocked or delayed, it can lead to fragmented care. Different providers may have incomplete or outdated information, making providing comprehensive, patient-centered care challenging.
- Increased Costs
Information-blocking practices can also contribute to increased healthcare costs. Duplication of tests and procedures may occur when healthcare providers need access to relevant patient information, leading to unnecessary expenses for patients and healthcare systems.
- Slowed Innovation
The study emphasizes that information-blocking practices can impede the growth of innovative healthcare technologies. By introducing friction into the health IT infrastructure, these practices deter the development and implementation of advanced tools that could enhance patient care and streamline healthcare processes.
Office of the Inspector General’s New Authority
Fortunately, the healthcare industry has seen positive developments in the fight against information blocking. The Office of the Inspector General (OIG) has been granted the authority to impose civil money penalties for violations of the Information Blocking Rule. This regulatory change marks a significant step toward ensuring that entities comply with the rules governing the exchange of EHI.
The prevalence of information blocking in healthcare poses a substantial threat to patient care and the advancement of innovative technologies. Delays in diagnosis and treatment, fragmented care, increased costs, weakened patient engagement and hindered innovation are all consequences of these obstructive practices.
The newfound authority of the Office of the Inspector General to impose civil money penalties for information-blocking violations is a welcome development. It sends a clear message that compliance with the Information Blocking Rule is not optional but essential for improving patient care and the healthcare industry. By eliminating information-blocking practices, healthcare can move closer to its goal of delivering high-quality, patient-centered care and embracing innovative technologies to transform healthcare delivery.
Smartlink Health helps healthcare organizations avoid information blocking with its ability to extract and insert data between virtually any system without involving the system vendor. To learn more about how Smartlink can help you solve your integration challenges and comply with information-blocking regulations, visit www.smartlinkhealth.com.