Health Language Blog

The Impacts of the 21st Century Cures Act

Posted on 01/17/17

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The 21st Century Cures Act was signed into law just last month.  This broad law reduces the bureaucracy for drug approval, provides billions of dollars to the NIH for research, and provides funding to state governments to deal with the opioid epidemic.  But along with these touted benefits, this law includes significant impacts for healthcare IT. 

Interoperability: This law requires that one year after its enactment, an HIT developer is required to have published API access and that it can be used in the real world for interoperability.  The law also highlights the need to develop interoperability reporting criteria for relevant stakeholders including health care providers, hospitals, HIT developers, HIEs, and even patients.  There are also requirements for EHRs to be able to transmit data to and from clinical registries.  Thus, combined with the MIPS regulations, interoperability is paramount for providers and HIT developers over the next few years.  Although this bill does not specifically describe terminology standardization, it will be paramount to accomplish these interoperability goals. 

Empowering patients: The law details that patients be able to access their health information and describes educational efforts for providers and patients to allow sharing of the information.  The need for consumer friendly descriptions to decipher the patient information will be increasingly important with these regulations. 

The Cures Act is certainly quite broad, and perhaps vague on some of the details, but overall it continues the march forward on several key initiatives for clinical research, precision medicine, the productive use of HIT, and the engagement of patients.

Sec. 4001 of the 21st Century Cures bill—already passed by the House and the Senate—calls for reducing the documentation burden on healthcare providers: “The Secretary of Health and Human Services, in consultation with providers of health services, healthcare suppliers of services, healthcare payers, health professional societies, health information technology developers, healthcare quality organizations, healthcare accreditation organizations, public health entities, states, and other appropriate entities, shall…establish a goal with respect to the reduction of regulatory or administrative burdens (such as documentation requirements) relating to the use of electronic health records.” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) repeated his contention that the 21st Century Cures Act is one of the most important bills Congress will pass this year.

The first step to making the Cure Act a success is implementing a data normalization strategy to improve the efficiency and accuracy of your EMR. Please leave any questions you may have in the comment field below.


Topics: EHR, data normalization, interoperability, patient engagement, Consumer Friendly Descriptions, patient empowerment

About the Author

Dr. Brian Levy, MD is Vice President and Chief Medical Officer with Health Language, part of Wolters Kluwer Health. He holds an MD and BS from the University of Michigan. Go Blue!