The 21st Century CURES Act: What is it and how it affects you and your patients

What is CURES?

The 21st Century Cures Act was the last bill signed into law by President Obama. Signed on December 13, 2016, the nearly 1,000 page document passed Congress easily and is considered one of the most significant pieces of healthcare legislation of our time. While the bill includes significant changes for EHR companies like Azalea Health, the primary focus of the work was to find cures for several diseases.

At the heart of it all is the patient, whether it’s finding treatments, making treatments more available, or providing better access to personal health information. In the effort to find much-needed cures for certain diseases, the Cures Act earmarked funding to the following programs:

  • $4.8B to NIH

  • $1.8B to the Cancer Moonshot Program

  • $1B to states to supplement opioid abuse prevention and treatment activities

  • $1.6B to the BRAIN Initiative to tackle such diseases as Alzheimer’s, epilepsy, and TBI

  • $1.4B to the All of Us Research Program (formerly known as the Precision Medicine Initiative)

  • $500M to the FDA over 10 years to speed up drug approvals and access to medical devices

 

The changes brought about by this ruling will help to foster digital and virtual care innovations. Patients will be able to more easily access their healthcare data and have a better overall picture of their own health. In addition, patients can choose to share their information with a third party which can improve overall care. 

How does this effect EHR companies?

EHRs must meet the quickly approaching deadline for certification compliance by adding or updating required features to their systems.  EHRs must update their systems to support, at a minimum, the first version of the USCDI. USCDI stands for US Core Data for Interoperability and is a compilation of data classes and elements that will be updated or added to the system. Transitions of care and continuation of care documents will be updated to include the USCDI elements. The required creation of a standardized API (application programming interface) will make information sharing more efficient.  Of all the Cures Act requirements, these will be the most visible to EHR users.

Why does this matter for providers and their patients?

In the immediate

Use of a certified EHR is required for participation in CMS reporting programs like MIPS, Medicare PI, and HIQR.  Those using a non-certified EHR are not eligible to participate in these types of programs and risk costly Medicare reimbursement penalties. Some features will be updated or added in order to comply with Cures Act requirements, but on the whole minimal visual or workflow changes will be noticed by users.

In the long term

The true value of the 21st Century Cures Act is centered around helping patients have better access to their health information and an overall better experience for data sharing for all. When information is blocked, it affects multiple parties- patients, providers, payers, and even IT developers.

While viewing and sharing data from patient portals or by secure messaging is not new in healthcare, the changes brought by the Cures Act improve the ability to share that data with standardized language and methods. Even more importantly are the doors it opens for future advancements in healthcare data sharing.

Updates at Azalea Health

The Cures Act requires a number of updates to an EHR’s 2015 Edition Certification. Most of these updates must be in place by December 31, 2022. 

Azalea Health has been working hard to meet the critical December 31st deadline! We are on track to meet all compliance requirements.