No More Blocking Health Information: New Federal Penalties Are $1 Million

New rules about “information blocking” target the makers of EMR systems, but they have important implications for surgeons and practices


Patients and their physicians sometimes can find it challenging to access their medical records because of a practice called "information blocking." Congress outlawed information blocking — defined as “a practice that interferes with, prevents, or materially discourages access, exchange, or use of electronic health information” — in the 21st Century Cures Act of 2016. The HHS Office of National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC) followed up that law with a rule, which became effective on April 5, 2021, making it illegal for specific actors, including physicians and electronic medical record (EMR) vendors, to interfere with the access, exchange, or use of electronic health information. The pandemic delayed enforcement of the rule, but the HHS Office of Inspector General (OIG) just announced its intention to assess up to $1 million in civil monetary penalties for each violation. Notably, the penalties do not apply to hospitals or physicians.


On July 3, 2023, the OIG published its information blocking penalty rule. Enforcement of the rule’s civil monetary penalties will begin on September 1, 2023, with all other provisions effective on August 2, 2023. A separate rule that will “disincentivize providers” from engaging in information blocking is expected soon from HHS.