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Under new information-blocking rules, practices must take steps to accelerate the timeline for releasing imaging reports to patients.
Several radiology practices are working to meet an underlying requirement of the information-blocking provision included in the 21st Century Cures Act – they are toying with the idea of a more timely release of patient radiology reports through online portals.
This provision is intended to improve data interoperability and make it easier for patients to get access to their health information. It is also a priority for the Biden Administration.
Currently, radiologists can take up to a week to refine their reports and communicate with ordering providers to ensure they decide on the optimal course of care. But, this time lag can frequently prompt patients to worry that their scans have revealed something might be wrong.
The Office of the National Coordinator (ONC) for Health IT is taking steps to prevent that anxiety, though. Under a new mandate, set to go into effect by April 5, providers who delay the timely release of personal health information can be fined up to $1 million per incident. To date, enforcement of that rule is pending, and it is currently unclear whether the existing one-week timeframe for releasing radiology reports will fall under this rule.
But, when the American College of Radiology reached out to the ONC for guidance, the response did not offer clear direction, said a group of radiologists from Massachusetts General Hospital in an article published on Feb. 16 in the Journal of the American College of Radiology. The ONC acknowledged that radiology practices are not required to proactively release reports if patients have not asked for them, but if they do not, it effectively means patients get their results at the same time as their referring provider.
Given this potential situation, the authors said, many hospitals have come up with a plan for patient access.
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“Many hospitals plan to respond to the information-blocking provision in part by eliminating radiology report embargoes among other strategies for promoting data accessibility,” said the team led by William A. Mehan, Jr., M.D., MBA, co-director of systems harmonization in the Mass General-Brigham radiology department. “Radiologists may struggle to understand and prepare for the impact of immediate patient report access via online portals on their practices, referring providers, and patients.”
To help imaging providers reach this goal, Mehan’s team offered five tips:
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