The 21st Century Cures Act (Cures Act) was signed into law on December 13, 2016. This expansive piece of legislation looked to increase choice and access for patients and providers. Billions of dollars were allocated to accelerate medical product development, fight the opioid crisis, streamline drug and device development, and improve mental health services. The focus of Title IV of this new law was Delivery which dealt with easing the regulatory burdens associated with use of an Electronic Health Record (EHR) and supplied provisions for advancing interoperability.
The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) reviewed the Cures Act after it was signed into law. The ONC and CMS issued two rule sets in 2020 through the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) based on three of the provisions in Title IV: 1) patient access, 2) information blocking, and 3) interoperability.
These rules affect all actors in the healthcare industry, provider, patient, and technology vendors. The following definitions are from the HealthIT.gov website, the links supply more detailed information.
- Patient Access - Means patients have the right to see their health records, get a copy of the information, and have it sent to a specialist or other third party they choose.
- Information Blocking - Is a practice by a healthcare actor that is likely to interfere with the access, exchange, or use of electronic health information (EHI), except as required by law or specified in an information blocking exception.
- Interoperability - Refers to the architecture or standards that make it possible for diverse EHR systems to work compatibly in a true information network.