-Contributed by R+C’s Health Law Group

Effective October 1, 2015, this legislation contains several provisions to encourage the free exchange of patient health information among providers and consumers. Hospitals, health systems, and electronic health record (EHR) providers are prohibited from “health information blocking,” and this legislation establishes that such action is an unfair trade practice. Health information blocking is defined as either knowingly (1) interfering or engaging in conduct reasonably likely to interfere with a patient’s, health care provider’s, or other authorized person’s ability to access or use an EHR or (2) using an EHR to both steer patients to affiliated providers and prevent or unreasonably interfere with patient referrals to unaffiliated health care providers. This legislation excludes from the definition of health information blocking referrals between providers participating in an accountable care organization or other value-based care model.

P.A. 15-146 also establishes a statewide health information exchange operated by the Department of Social Services. The establishment of the exchange is subject to the authorization of bond funds by the Connecticut General Assembly and approval by Connecticut’s Bond Commission. The goals of the exchange include securely allowing real-time access to patient health information across all provider settings, enabling patients to access their health information at no cost, providing real-time alerts and other tools in support of care coordination efforts, reducing costs associated with preventable readmissions, and promoting EHR interoperability. Within one year of the exchange’s launch, hospitals and clinical laboratories must have an EHR capable of connecting to the exchange and must begin the process of participating in the exchange. Other health care providers with EHR systems able to connect to the exchange must begin the process of participation within two years of the exchange’s launch.

This legislation also requires each hospital that has an EHR system capable of exchanging electronically patient health information to take all reasonable steps to enable the bidirectional and secure exchange of a patient’s electronic health information to all other health care providers furnishing services to the patient that maintain EHR systems capable of exchanging such records. Such information exchange must include laboratory and diagnostic tests, radiological and other imaging results, continuity of care documents, and discharge documents. While this legislation requires each hospital to implement technology already purchased to accomplish this exchange of information, it does not require hospitals to purchase additional software or equipment. Under this legislation, a hospital’s failure to take reasonable steps to comply with these requirements will be deemed evidence of health information blocking.