AMA House of Delegates Calls for Greater Flexibility on Information-Blocking Rules

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AMA House of Delegates Calls for Greater Flexibility on Information-Blocking Rules

New federal information-blocking regulations stemming from the 21st Century Cures Act require physicians to release health information even when they believe that doing so could emotionally or psychologically harm the patient, says a resolution presented at the AMA Special Meeting.

There are exceptions to the regulation for information that physicians believe might lead to a patient’s physical harm, but not so for other kinds of harm. Meanwhile, the information-blocking rules that took effect in April impose burdens on physician practices already slammed by the financial and other strains of the COVID-19 pandemic.

With these facts in mind, delegates took action by calling for the AMA to:

  • Advocate to the Office for Civil Rights to revise the definition of harm to include mental and emotional distress. Such a revision would allow additional flexibility for clinicians under the Preventing Harm Exception, based on their professional judgement, to withhold sensitive information they believe could cause physical, mental, or emotional harm to the patient.
  • Advocate that the Office for Civil Rights assemble a commission of medical professionals to help the office review the definition of harm and provide scientific evidence demonstrating that mental and emotional health is intertwined with physical health.
  • Urge the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) and its Office of Inspector General to leverage their enforcement discretion that would afford practices additional compliance flexibilities.
  • Urge the ONC to earnestly consult with relevant stakeholders about unintended or unforeseen consequences that may arise from the information-blocking regulations.

Of special note, physicians who treat adolescents under the current regulation must share sensitive information with parents or patients’ proxies in sensitive areas such as reproductive health, mental health, or substance use. Doing so could result in severe mental anguish or emotional distress as patients deal with reactions from family members.

Read the updated regulations here: information-blocking regulations