We are entering a new era in healthcare in which patients gain more power to control their healthcare experience and the information it produces. To capture the new opportunity for patients to access their personal health information, Congress passed the Cures Act (Cures Act) in 2016. The final rule that governs action was published in 2020. The Act went into effect in April 2021.
The Cures Act is changing how healthcare organizations manage and control patient information. Understanding the Cures Act can help you follow it in your organization.
The Cures Act
Among the many policies put into law with the Cures Act is a requirement for technology interoperability that promotes patient access to their electronic health information. The industry may no longer interfere with or prevent patient access to electronic health information. Organizations must now create and make available a secure, standards-based API for use by providers and to support a patient’s access to data in their electronic health record.
The Cures Act mandates patients’ access to their health information in a form convenient for them, including making it more electronically accessible and at no cost. The new rules will improve access to information patients need for making more informed health care decisions.
Overall, the Cures Act will create a more patient-centered healthcare experience by moving the healthcare system towards giving patients access to their medical information through apps on their phone.
What Does the Cures Act Mean for Providers?
Providers play a crucial role in providing accurate and accessible data to app developers and patients. Their cooperation and maintaining up-to-date, electronic records fuel the next era of patient-centered healthcare.
Eliminating Information Blocking
In the past, providers have sometimes made it difficult for patients to access and share their personal health information with information blocking or “gag clauses.” The Cures Act eliminates most information blocking. This should help patients and providers make better choices and improve the systems they use to enter and share data.
More Choices and Automation
The Cures Act also helps providers by mandating automated data access for patients. This will ultimately free up providers’ time to care for patients, as new technologies will take care of the surfacing and sharing their data.
In addition, with the improvements in data sharing, more apps should be available to providers looking to share information with their patients. The greater number of apps on the market should improve their security, ease of use, and cost.
What Does the Cures Act Mean for Patients’ Data Access?
The Cures Act contains provisions to improve healthcare IT, most notably in relation to nationwide interoperability. Interoperability has to do with enacting data standards to simplify the sharing of data between providers, payors, patients, and businesses.
The Cures Act sets standards for APIs (Application Programming Interfaces) that offer patients access to their health data. Since API data access underpins many smartphone apps, this ruling should speed up innovation for healthcare apps and improve how easily patients can access their data.
As stated in the Cures Act, a central goal is to provide patients access to electronic health information that is "easy to understand, secure and updated automatically." APIs help significantly with this automation and access.
The secure API certification criterion established by the ONC requires standardized API access for single patient and population services and is limited to API-enabled “read” services using the HL7® Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (FHIR®) standard. The FHIR standard, in addition to a set of adopted implementation specifications, provides known and consistent technical requirements for software developers.
This improved data sharing should also help in one key area for patients: cost.
The Cures Act supports patients’ ability to understand the true cost of a procedure before they choose it. For example, if one doctor is performing and billing for a surgery but the cost of the anesthesia is separate, as well as post-op medications and follow-up care, a patient should know all this information ahead of time. And they should be able to shop around and compare their options for care using API-powered apps.
The Future of Patient Care
The Cures Act will provide patients a more convenient, informed, and empowered future.
In his article Introducing the Patient Era, Lumedic CEO Mike Nash shares an exciting vision of the new patient care experience. He writes, “The Cures Act, combined with modern technology, provides a powerful combination to usher in the Patient Era in a time of unprecedented patient need.”
Learn more about the Cures Act here.