Almost all of the information in your medical record is digitized in today’s world (provided your healthcare professional has converted their paper files!). But, until October 6th 2022, access to most of it was blocked. This meant that only some of your electronic health information (EHI) could be shared with you.
Fortunately, with the new information blocking rule, you can now access all your EHI. Read this post to the end to learn more about the new information blocking rule and how it benefits you.
First, What Is Information Blocking?
Information blocking occurs when patients are prevented from accessing their EHI. The information blocking rule in the 21st Century Cures Act makes it illegal for healthcare providers to block you from accessing your medical records electronically.
However, previously, the rule only applied to the data set in the United States Core Data for Interoperability (USCDI). This gave you access to your consultation notes, procedure notes, lab report narratives, imaging narrative, progress notes and discharge summary notes.
But, you couldn’t access all other electronic protected health information (ePHI), including billing information. And, if you wanted access to all your health records, your provider may have charged you to print out paper records.
Imagine a change in insurance requiring you to change your healthcare provider. Your previous provider wouldn’t be able to share all your records electronically. So, you’d have to pay for printed copies, which can cost a substantial amount.
What’s The New Information Blocking Rule?
The new information blocking rule, which took effect on October 6th, has expanded from just a couple of electronic health information datasets to ALL electronic protected health information.
This means that patients can now ask for ALL their medical records to be shared with them electronically. That is, your healthcare provider is mandated to give you access to every piece of information, email exchanges, and billing records that pertain to your health. The rule also covers granting access to other health providers that you authorize.
And besides healthcare providers, the rule also applies to health IT developers, and health information exchanges and networks.
Benefits of The New Information Blocking Rule
The update to the new information blocking rule, from some to all electronic health information, offers several benefits outlined below.
You’ll have free and quick access to your data. No more printing fees and delays. With the new information blocking rule, you won’t have to wait weeks for your medical records to be processed (nor spend time on follow up and re-requests!). Neither will you have to pay an exorbitant fee to print thousands of medical record pages. (For paper print fees, click here for Illinois’ fee schedule.) All your information can be shared electronically with you or anyone else you authorize. You can gain access quickly with a single click on your provider’s patient portal, or they can send it to your email in pdf or doc formats in minutes.
You can share your data with other care providers. The new information blocking rule improves interoperability. Your former healthcare provider must share all your health information with your new provider. So, you won’t have to waste money and time repeating tests and procedures you’ve already done. It would also make it easier for your new provider to serve you better. For instance, they won’t have to read through a thousand pages of paper records to find relevant information. With your data in electronic format, they can easily do a keyword search to find the data they need. Quality care coordination directly contributes to a better experience for you and can dramatically improve outcomes while reducing costs.
You’ll have access to improved healthcare services. With the ability to access your complete medical records and improved interoperability, you can shop for better healthcare. For instance, you’ll be able to share your electronic health record with other care providers for a second opinion. Also, you’ll be able to apply to clinical trials and other digital health services that will benefit you. You won’t have to rely on your provider to get you in. You can find studies online and submit the required data yourself.
How to Request Your Full Medical Records from Your Provider
The method of providing access to all your electronic health information (EHI) depends on your healthcare provider. Nevertheless, here are three ways to request your complete medical records to be shared with you electronically.
1. Gain Access on Your Online Patient Portal
If your healthcare provider has an online patient portal, you may not need to put in an official application to get your complete medical records. Some providers store all EHI on their online portal, from lab results to billing records.
So, you can simply login in and download the information you need. And, if your provider does not store everything on their platform, you may find an online form to fill out to request your records.
2. Call Your Provider to Find Out the Process
If you can’t find where to access or request for all your medical records on your provider’s website or patient portal, you can call to find out the process. You’ll be directed to the right page or email address to submit your request. Some providers may require you to visit in person to submit a request for all your health information.
3. Send a Request Email to Your Provider
If you’re making the request via email, ensure that you indicate that you want your full record in electronic format. Your healthcare provider should send you a signature notification form describing potential security risks of sending information via the internet especially when sent unencrypted (not secure). Also, you may request that the records be shared directly with another provider’s electronic health record (EHR) system.
When Can Your Electronic Health Information Request be Blocked?
Despite the new rule, there are exceptions to the information blocking rule. In some conditions, healthcare providers are permitted to block you from accessing your electronic health information (EHI).
For instance, if some of your records are in paper format and others in electronic format, the health provider is only required to provide access to those in electronic format. You’ll have to get the rest in paper format.
Also, your healthcare provider is allowed to block you from accessing parts of your EHI to prevent harm. These include behavioral information and psychographic notes that may harm you or others.
Steps to Submit an Information Blocking Claim
If you have proof your healthcare provider is blocking you from accessing your electronic health information, there are two options to submit a complaint: ONC Portal (online submission steps below) or OIG Hotline.
Step #1: Visit the ONC Portal to Submit Your Claim
The Office of the National Coordinator (ONC) for Health Information Technology is responsible for receiving information blocking claims. After setting up an account, you log on to the portal, click on ‘Report Information Blocking’ to access the claim form.
Step #2: Fill Out the Information Blocking Claim Form
Fill out your first name, last name and email address. Then, provide a detailed description of the information blocking event. You can also attach files and screenshots to support your claim. If you’d like to remain anonymous, check the ‘Yes’ box to the anonymity question, and you won’t have to fill in identifying information.
Step #3: Create and Submit Your Claim Form
After completing the form, click on ‘Create’ to submit your claim form. Once submitted, your claim will go through a review process. If your claim is against a healthcare provider, the details will be shared with the HHS Office of Inspector General (OIG), which is responsible for investigating information blocking claims.
With the new information blocking rule, there’ll be no more printing fees and delays (unless your provider has paper records). You can now request and gain access to all your electronic protected health information. And, your healthcare provider is mandated to share your medical records electronically with you and whoever you authorize.