What is the 21st Century Cures Act?
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Enacted on December 13, 2016, by former President Barack Obama, the 21st Century Cures Act was considered “the most important bill” of that year. Its main proposal is to provide ways to speed up research and approval of drugs and medical devices, making new treatments accessible more quickly. In summary, it brings innovations and advances to help patients faster.
The Cures Act also brings new provisions related to electronic health records (EHRs). The objective is to promote an exchange between health information networks across the country, preventing the blocking of access to data from different providers. As this change directly affects medical clinics and private practices, can you be sure that the system you use complies with the new rules?
The 21st Century Cures Act was created to help speed up research and medical product development. The legislation has been approved by the National Institutes of Health and by drug companies and medical device manufacturers. Among the advances are the commitment to invest in research for new treatments and the promise of facilitating procedures to introduce new medical technologies.
The main points include:
- Promote and fund an acceleration of research on serious diseases.
- Accelerate the development of drugs and biological/medical devices.
- Creation of harm-reduction strategies to deal with opioid abuse.
- Improve and reform mental health services.
- Improve healthcare IT through the exchange of EHRs.
How Does it Help Medical Practices?
Owners/managers of medical clinics or private practices have reasons to celebrate several points of the Cures Act. More investment in research funding can accelerate the development of solutions for chronic diseases, while the adoption of prescription drug monitoring programs can help fight the opioid crisis. But one of the most significant changes to clinics and practices is regarding patient data requests. Previously, it was common to run into information blocking when trying to access patient records from other providers.
The Cures Act now prohibits health information providers, hospitals, insurers, and health IT companies from adopting practices that limit the access, exchange, or use of patient’s electronic health information (EHI), promoting the so-called “interoperability”—the sharing of all this data through computers and online apps.
The aim is to ensure that patients can more quickly access their electronic health information even between different healthcare sources. If your clinic or practice doesn’t use electronic records, this particular change in legislation will have little impact on your daily life. However, it’s also a good time to consider digitizing your files.
How Can Your Practice Better Utilize Technology?
These new regulations allow clinics to use technology even more beneficially. It’s the perfect time to expand digital services, which patients can access through computers and mobile devices.
If you haven’t already, adopt EHRs to speed up processes and simplify the workflow. Simply put, it’s a digital version of the traditional paper patient record. You can update eHRs in real-time, and all the patient’s medical history is instantly available. You can access all treatments previously prescribed to the patient, their old and current diagnoses, history of allergies, radiology images and results of laboratory tests, etc.
Digitizing all of this makes the billing processes seamless and helps to organize and manage all patient records. You can invest in telehealth tools that the patients can access from their own homes. Many clinics already offer the possibility to make digital scheduling through a website or cell phone app, and even medical appointments provided through videoconference or by phone. Creating an online patient portal allows them to access and review test results easily, request prescription refills, and order supplies and medications over the internet.
Information Can Lead to Cure
Although the 21st Century Cures Act has many important points that must be celebrated, the one that most directly impacts the daily lives of patients and their clinics or practices concerns the access and exchange of electronic health information. The purpose of the changes is to promote greater transparency about the care history of each patient in your clinic. This allows them to understand all the information about their health that your professionals collected.
By encouraging access to information and allowing different health providers to exchange their patient histories, the Cures Act proposes an experience with more agility and security. It is a positive step toward more digital innovation in the future.