Watch: Healthcare Focus Group Addresses Confusion with the New CMS/ONC Rules—and Regs in General

Interoperability

Is your organization confident that you fully understand the CMS and ONC’s new/final rules on interoperability issued in 2020—the 21st Century Cures Act—and that your team knows the necessary steps to comply with those requirements? If you’re not sure, you are far from alone.

In a recent HIMSS event, J2 Global led a focus group on this topic with a broad cross-section of medical industry professionals. The discussion’s moderator was Brad Spannbauer, J2 Global’s VP of Professional Services and the company’s HIPAA Privacy & Compliance Officer.

The consensus from the conversation—which included physicians, hospital regulatory folks, and IT executives with large healthcare organizations and academic medical centers—was that the new CMS/ONC rules only add to the regulatory confusion these organizations are already facing. Specifically for organizations that fall under the Conditions of Participations (CoP), there is confusion with regards to what precisely they are supposed to do to comply.

The new/final rules raise more questions than they answer

There are more questions than answers in terms of how to satisfy compliance. A few of the common sentiments expressed during the focus group:

  • These rules leave a lot of ambiguity.
  • We’re not yet sure how we’re going to apply these rules across each state where we have a presence, considering each of those states has its own rules that might conflict or add more complexity.
  • There’s so much detail in all of these regulations, all written in such a confusing way, that it’s not clear which rules need to be deployed and how.

One participant quipped that like the many healthcare-interoperability regulations that came before them, these new/final rules are “not in human-readable format.”

To illustrate the complexity of these regulations, Brad pointed out that the 21st Century Cures Act alone is hundreds of pages of legalese. He also noted that even the full name of the act itself is confusing and covers a lot of territory—The 21st Century Cures Act: Interoperability, Information Blocking, and the ONC Health IT Certification Program Final Rule. (Try saying that twice as fast as you can.)

Interesting insights raised during the focus group participants

The focus group video is worth watching for the participants’ creative ideas and suggestions on how to navigate the complexities of these regulations. A few great examples that came out of the discussion:

  • Leverage your trusted software vendors and tech partners for help.

Several participants said their best source of useful, clear, and trustworthy knowledge about interoperability and quality regulations comes from their EHR vendor and user communities as well as other software vendors. They described these information-sharing communities as great ways to find streamlined, relevant information and best practices on regulatory compliance—from organizations actually facing the same issues.

  • Work with other providers in your state to determine plans and best practices.

The participants also suggested that entities under the CoP should look for groups or organizations operating in their state to determine a path to compliance. Each state has additional laws of its own regarding patient protection and interoperability, and healthcare organizations should get together and share ideas and insights to make sure they’re all complying with their state’s regulations as well as those from CMS and ONC.

  • Find a third-party expert who can distill the regs for your organization.

Another insight from the discussion —more of a wish-list item, actually—would be to work with an outside firm that knows the specifics of your organization and can process all of these complex regulations through that lens. This team would identify the rules and guidelines that apply to your business, ignore those that don’t, and distill the relevant details into infographics, plain-language summaries, and other digestible content that you can understand and disseminate to the affected teams across your organization.

Consensus: a simple solution to the CMS/ONC confusion

It’s also worth pointing out that if you’re concerned with your organization’s regulatory compliance—especially in light of these additional 2020 federal rules—one simple solution is to sign up for the Consensus interoperability platform.

This collaborative data-sharing platform connects providers for improved patient care—through one-click access to a wide range of healthcare data networks, patient record query, Direct Secure messaging, and digital cloud faxing. But even more important for our discussion here: Consensus can meet some of the CMS regulatory requirements, specifically endpoint communication for ADT notification for your community partners to jump straight to CMS Ruling compliance today.

More great news: As a healthcare provider, you can even use the Consensus on-demand patient query part platform for free during COVID-19.

Watch the HIMSS Focus Group on Healthcare Interoperability
and the New CMS/ONC Rules

Bevey Miner