ADA asks National Coordinator for Health Information Technology office for clarity on interoperability rule

Washington — The ADA wrote to the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology on June 2 regarding a new federal rule designed to give patients and providers secure access to electronic health information.

The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Technology’s 21st Century Cares Act: Interoperability, Information Blocking and Health IT Certification Program Final Rule is intended to promote health information interoperability, patient access to their records and prohibit information blocking. The rule will be fully implemented in October 2022, but some provisions — including one requiring that patients are able to electronically access all of their electronic health information — are already underway.

In the comments to the ONC, ADA President Daniel J. Klemmedson, D.D.S., M.D., and Executive Director Kathleen T. O’Loughlin, D.M.D., commended the office for its responsiveness to provider concerns about complying with the rule and the efforts it has made to explain implications for providers. Despite this, many dentists continue to have questions about the rule’s applicability to dental practices, so the ADA is urging the office to provide additional clarity.

“Because the large majority of dental practices are small businesses that do not use electronic health record systems, and those [records] are unlikely to be ONC certified, we would like explicit assurance that they will not be required to buy ONC-certified electronic health record systems,” Drs. Klemmedson and O’Loughlin wrote. They added that the ADA would also like guidance more specifically addressing and comparing what actors who use certified records software need to do as well as those who do not.

The ADA comments also requested more information about the information blocking provisions. The ADA comments noted that the FAQ on the ONC website is unclear on whether "just the content portion of the content and manner exception will end on Oct. 5, 2022, or whether both the content and manner exceptions will end," and asked for additional clarification.

“We are supportive of the movement towards interoperability, specifically the use of the [Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources] as the API Standard and the ability for systems to exchange the core United States Core Data for Interoperability data elements,” the letter concluded. “In addition to our questions regarding the Cures Act Final Rule, we would like to discuss opportunities to move the dental practice management technology in this direction. We thank you for your attention to this matter, and appreciate your general efforts towards educating providers about the ONC Cures Act Final Rule.”

The ADA asked ONC for a meeting to discuss these important issues. Once the ADA has more information about this rule and how it applies to dentists, it will let its members know.

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