What CURES ACT Means for Clinicians and Better Technology Automation

There is a plethora of data and information in the health sector, and it keeps growing every day. There is no doubt that adequate health data management is essential to the optimal provision of healthcare services to patients. 

Making this plethora of information accessible to patients and healthcare providers to improve the administration of healthcare services while keeping them safeguarded for security purposes has been a point of focus for many years. 

It has led to the adoption of some measures by the governing bodies to make health information easily accessible to patients and healthcare providers. Such measures involve the recent passage of the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology cures final act rule and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services interoperability and patient access final rule. 

The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) passed the Cures Act Final Rule in May 2020. Preceding this was the passage of the 21st Century Cures Act in 2016, which aimed to make the healthcare system patient-centered. 

The ONC Cures Act Final Rule aims to provide patients and healthcare providers secure electronic access to health information. It aims to build on and enhance the already established, but yet to be implemented, patient-centered care strategies involved in the 21st Century Cures Act. 

The ONC Cures Act Final Rule focuses primarily on the prohibition of actors from information blocking, which involves preventing any interference or discouragement to easy access, exchange, and use of electronic health information (EHI). 

Since April 2021, the prevention of information blocking has only been implemented in only a handful subset of the electronic health information represented by a dataset.

However, full implementation in all subsets of EHI is expected by October 2022. 

The ONC Cures Act Final Rule also focuses on the need for certified developers in the ONC Health IT Certification program to upgrade to the standardized Application Program Interface and implement the Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (FHIR) technology. It is all to enhance the easy access and sharing of electronic health information and enhance interoperability in the healthcare systems. 

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) passed the CMS Interoperability and Patient Access Final Rule, which aims to provide patients with easy and straightforward access to their health information through the liberation of health information by making the healthcare providers directory public. 

While these two final act rules benefit the patient by giving the patient control over the management of health information, there are various benefits to the clinicians. 


Benefits to Clinicians

Easy and Affordable Access to patient Data

With the ONC final act rule focused on eliminating information blocking by any component of the healthcare system, access to patients’ information is as straightforward as ever. The technological innovations enhanced by the final act rules enables the clinicians and the patient themselves to have easy and fully automated access to patients’ data. Through the standardized APIs required by the final act rules, patients can quickly get easy access to their data on secured apps with little or no effort. 

It also eliminates the lengthy process used in the past, which involved administrative work in getting access to patients’ information. 

Multiple Application Choices

The requirements laid down for certified health Information Technology developers make for an open and competitive environment in the marketplace of healthcare apps. It improves the quality and standardization of these apps, making available multiple choices of apps to choose from for both patients and clinicians. The competitiveness in the app market makes these apps a bit more affordable, ultimately fulfilling one of the main objectives of the final act rule, which is easy access to patients’ information.

Flexible Implementation

While the final act rule, specifically the ONC final act rule, explicitly emphasizes the elimination of information blocking, the implementation of this final act rule allows for a bit of flexibility and reasonable adjustments. It is to maintain a balance between easy access and security.

Under certain conditions, actors can block access to a patient’s data in other to prevent potential harm to the patient. Also, where the request is infeasible, actors can block the access, use, or exchange of healthcare information, given a situation where the conditions are fulfilled. 

Optimal Safety of the Patient

The safety of a patient’s data is paramount, just as easy access to this information is. Final act rules allow for transparency in data management and allow for the data’s safety against cyber attacks. It also protects the interests and investments of developers in health IT. 


Impact on the Ease of Technology Integrations

Interoperability is still at the core of the final act rules. The ONC Cures Act Final Rule mandates the developers’ use of standardized data sets for better interoperability. Also, it emphasizes the need for the adoption of standardized APIs for seamless access, exchange, and use of health information within the apps. The deadline for adopting these standardized data sets was extended to March 2022 from 2020 due to the covid-19 pandemic.

Combining the above two practices mandated by the ONC cures Act Final Rule ( Adoption of Standardized APIs and data sets) makes for better technology automation and optimal compatibility for efficient use and exchange and information in the electronic health records between various healthcare systems.

To be certified under the current ONC certification program, healthcare IT developers are required to adopt these best practices. Previously certified health IT developers are required to upgrade to these best practices with having highlighted the necessary details on how to upgrade to the new requirements. The deadline for adopting the standardized practices is December 21, 2022. 

The CMS final rule also improves interoperability at its core by making provider directory API public, thereby enhancing third-party access to information and creating new services. 


Take Away

The passage of the 21st-century cures act and the subsequent passage of the two final rules ( ONC final acts rule and CMS final rule) have been essential steps to start a new era of healthcare data management. 

The adoption of these final acts provides easy access, exchange, and use of health information to patients and healthcare providers, making for optimal and transparent patient-centered care. 

Along with this final act, rules are better technology innovations that improve the interoperability in the healthcare systems leading to better technology automation. There is a need to adopt these final act rules across all health systems for better rendering of health services to patients.



Overview of the Office of National Coordinator for Health Information Technology Cures Act Final Rule

The CMS Interoperability and Patient Access Fact Sheet

Cures Act Provisions to Transform Interoperability in 2022

Certified Health IT Adoption a Step Toward Broad Interoperability

H.R.34 – 21st Century Cures Act – 114th Congress (2015-2016)

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