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September 2, 2021

Information Blocking and Oncology: Implications of the 21st Century Cures Act and Open Notes

Author Affiliations
  • 1Johns Hopkins Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center at Bayview Medical Center, Baltimore, Maryland
  • 2Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, Chicago, Illinois
JAMA Oncol. 2021;7(11):1609-1610. doi:10.1001/jamaoncol.2021.3520

The art of oncology lies in clinicians conveying information accurately and clearly to their patients while also maintaining empathy. Documentation of patient-physician visits serves as a physician’s record and communicates care plans to other physicians, but these notes are usually highly analytical and may carry negative emotional tones.1 On December 13, 2016, President Barack Obama signed the 21st Century Cures Act into law. Implementation began on April 5, 2021, when the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) banned the practice of “information blocking.”2 Physicians and health systems can no longer prevent the release of clinical information to patients, including consultation notes, discharge summaries, history and physical examinations, imaging narratives, laboratory/pathology reports, and progress and procedure notes. This rule applies to electronic medical records (EMRs) eligible for release, with some exceptions (eg, information that poses physical harm to a patient). However, physicians and health systems face consequences, including monetary fines, for noncompliance.2

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