The Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS)’ Office of the National Coordinator (ONC) published an interim final rule today delaying several key compliance deadlines in the ONC 21st Century Cures Act final rule – including that of the information blocking provisions, which were slated to become effective on November 2, 2020 – until April 5, 2021. According to the ONC press release, the decision to delay the information blocking compliance deadline was made to allow hospitals and provider groups more flexibility and time to respond to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. These delays have been heralded as much-needed by numerous provider groups, including the American Hospital Association, due to the operational and financial challenges facing the provider community as a result of the pandemic.

The ONC’s National Coordinator, Don Rucker, noted in the press release that “[t]o be clear, ONC is not removing the requirements advancing patient access to their health information that are outlined in the Cures Act Final Rule. Rather, we are providing additional time to allow everyone in the health care ecosystem to focus on COVID-19 response.” The ONC has also been urged to use this additional time to publish comprehensive education and guidance to provide additional clarity to the industry around the requirements of the information blocking rule.

The ONC also delayed a number of compliance deadlines in the health IT regulations in the interim final rule that are largely applicable to health IT developers, including deadlines related to the 2015 edition health IT certification updates and new standardization application-programming interface, which will now require compliance by Dec. 31, 2022.

The new compliance deadlines set forth in the ONC’s interim final rule, as published earlier today in the ONC’s press release, are set forth below. We will continue to monitor regulatory guidance from the ONC and provide a more detailed summary of the interim final rule in upcoming blog posts.