News impacting community cancer care
January 5, 2024

The Network Submits Comments to HHS/ONC on Proposal to Disincentivize Provider Information Blocking

Comments urge stronger stance against information blocking by hospital systems to control referrals

On January 2, The Network submitted formal comments to the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), advocating for the agency to take a stronger stance against hospital systems who engage in information blocking-type behavior to control referrals.

The Network provided an example of several oncologists who recently left a hospital system in a small market to create an independent group practice. These physicians had been ingrained in the community for years and were focused on maintaining unfettered patient access throughout the transition. After this occurred, the hospital system set up multiple onerous roadblocks to prevent referring physicians at the hospital from making referrals to external providers for newly diagnosed patients.

This type of behavior to enhance market dominance comes at the expense of patient care and often in disregard to the medical decision-making of the referring providers. We recognize similar tactics are occurring in other markets and we hope ONC will view this specific example as a trend that needs to be addressed nationally.

Under the proposed rule, ONC would establish disincentives for healthcare providers found by the HHS Office of the Inspector General to have committed information blocking. The Network noted that while it appears information blocking to control patient referrals would violate the spirit of the rule, it is not specifically addressed in the rule. The Network urged HHS/ ONC to categorically state this behavior is information blocking and consider future guidance or rulemaking to prohibit it.

The 21st Century Cures Act prohibits information blocking by healthcare providers, certified health IT developers, and health information networks/ health information exchanges. The proposed rule on provider disincentives builds on earlier rules to implement this law.

To read the full text of The Network’s comment letter, CLICK HERE.
To read the HHS news release on the proposed rule, CLICK HERE.
To read the proposed rule, CLICK HERE