How Can Implementation of the 21st Century Cures Act Impact Healthcare Practices?

21st Century Cures Act

Imagine the peace of mind when you gain access to your health records with just a single click. Yes, it’s true, patients can see their physicians’ notes from their last appointment through authorized and secure online access.

Giving patients and their healthcare providers secure access to health information, is the major benefit of the 21st Century Cures Act. Implantation of this act is a huge step towards empowering patients to take ownership of their health.

Signed into law in December of 2016, this act demands the healthcare industry to adopt standardized application programming interfaces (APIs). Which will help both patients and medical practitioners, to securely access structured electronic health information using smartphone applications.

According to this act, physicians are bound to give patients access to all health information in their electronic medical records, free of charge.

What Does That Mean for Healthcare Providers?

According to the United States Core Data for Interoperability (USCDI), a medical practice will share the following electronic health records with patients:

  • Consultation notes.
  • Medical History
  • Imaging narratives.
  • Pathology reports narratives.
  • Discharge summary notes.
  • Laboratory report narratives.
  • Progress notes.
  • Procedure notes.

Objectives of the 21st Century Cures Act

  • Make patients’ data requests easy and free of cost.
  • It will encourage transparency and interoperability.
  • Enables healthcare providers, medical facilities, and patients to benefit from an application marketplace.
  • Accelerating medical product development.
  • Enhance patient provider’s coordination for improved care services.
  • Improve patient safety.
  • Prevent information blocking

Initially, it may be difficult for physicians to share healthcare information with patients.  Because there is no defined method, application of web software to provide access yet. However, according to an additional provision, clinical notes must be “shared with a patient’s 3rd party application (i.e. downloaded to a smartphone).”

Are There Any Exceptions?

Before diving into further discussions, it’s pertinent to mention here that this act is applied to all information you hold. Either it is stored in EHR/EMR, digital imaging system, word processing files, or any other formats. However, these rules don’t apply to the following medical documents

Psychotherapy notes
Psychotherapy notes recorded during the counseling sessions between mental health professionals and patients have an exception to this act.

But medical practitioners are still bound to share information about:  prescriptions, treatment, results of clinical tests, symptoms, treatment plan, or diagnosis.

Notes gathered in anticipation of legal proceedings
Information that is being stored or compiled for the use of a civil, criminal, or administrative action or proceeding has a total exception to the 21st-century cure act.

Key Tenets of 21st Century Cures Act

Information Blocking
Denying patients to give access to their healthcare records is considered an unfair practice. So the individual, involved in blocking important data from patients or placing unreasonable obstacles to their data, might have to face federal penalties, heavy fines, or other lawsuits.

However, there are some exceptions that pediatricians should be aware of, such as if you cannot provide electronic data. But you can and do print and mail the requested data to the patient.

ONC defines information blocking as “a practice that, except as required by law or covered by an exception . . . is likely to interfere with access, exchange, or use of electronic health information.”

Individuals and organizations may fall under one or more of the following categories.

  • Healthcare providers.
  • Health information networks or Health Information Exchanges (HIEs).
  • Health IT developers of certified IT.

Exceptions to the Information Blocking

  • Preventing Harm Exception: It will not be information blocking for an actor to engage in practices that are reasonable and necessary to prevent harm to a patient or another person, provided certain conditions are met.
  • Privacy Exception: If any individual does not fulfill a request to access, exchange, or use EHI in order to protect an individual’s privacy, provided certain conditions are met.
  • Security Exception: If any of the allowed individuals doesn’t fulfill a request to interfere with the access, exchange, or use of EHI in order to protect the security of EHI, provided certain conditions are met.
  • Infeasibility Exception: if an actor does not fulfill a request to access, exchange, or use EHI due to the infeasibility of the request, provided certain conditions are met.
  • Health IT Performance Exception: To take reasonable and necessary measures to make health IT temporarily unavailable or to degrade the health IT’s performance for the benefit of the overall performance of the health IT, provided certain conditions are met.
  • Content and Manner Exception: to limit the content of its response to a request to access, exchange, or use EHI or the manner in which it fulfills a request to access, exchange, or use EHI, provided certain conditions are met.
  • Fees Exception: to charge fees, including fees that result in a reasonable profit margin, for accessing, exchanging, or using EHI, provided certain conditions are met.
  • Licensing Exception: to license interoperability elements for EHI to be accessed, exchanged, or used, provided certain conditions are met.

Train Your Staff for Success

It’s become crucial for medical practitioners to conduct regular training sessions for their healthcare, administrative as well as IT staff. So they can get familiar with all the rules and regulations of this act.

You can also help your patients to understand their role and responsibility in ensuring the successful implementation of the 21st-century cures act successfully. More importantly, your medical billing staff needs a complete understanding of this act.

Make sure that your entire revenue cycle management and other administrative workflows fulfill the compliance requirements of this act. Because we have already discussed that this act is not for any specific product, it implements all the healthcare facilities and information except a few conditions. And staying compliant with his act is important to avoid any legal trouble.

Are you curious about other security and privacy laws related to transmitting patients’ data?  Then you must stay in touch with the Medical Billing Benefits. It’s a reliable and authentic platform about the latest healthcare reforms in terms of federal regulations, insurance policies, medical billing, and coding guidelines. Subscribe to our Newsletter to stay at the top of the latest trends.

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