What is the CURES Act?
The CURES Act was originally signed into law in 2016, containing provisions to streamline information sharing, as well as increase choice and access to information for both patients and their providers. There are provisions for the development and delivery of drugs and medical devices, accelerated research for serious illnesses, improved mental health services, and addressing the opioid crisis. It also offers language to ease the regulatory burdens that come with using EHRs and health information technology.
The final two sets of rules were issued in March 2020, creating what is known as the most extensive policies for healthcare data sharing that the federal government has ever put into place. The ONC Final Rule document spells out all the regulations to prevent information blocking by all those involved: developers, health information exchanges and networks, and providers. Essentially, the CURES Act implements guidelines that will:
- Alleviate administrative duties that can cause delays in clinical trials
- Enhance data sharing
- Improve privacy protections
- Allow inclusion of diverse populations in clinical research
- Protect patients while also ensuring they have access to their EHI as needed
What is EHI?
EHI, or electronic health information, refers to the details about a patient’s health, care, conditions, and previous medical history in a digital format. Today, this information is made available electronically and patients have the right and ability to share it with other doctors, facilities, and parties with a vested interest in their well-being and health. The CURES Act focuses on keeping EHI secure but also making it more accessible for patients and other authorized parties. There are provisions that state developers, providers, and others may not engage in information blocking, or interfere with the access or use of any electronic health records.
Changing Rules in Patient Privacy and Information Sharing
There’s a fine line between making patient information accessible and creating a dangerous environment where information is too easily accessible. This is where the CURES Act and other efforts have worked to develop strong privacy practices and come up with solutions like the modern EHR, which has premium security and privacy tools in place to ensure that information only gets to those who need it, or those the patient wants to see it.
As more of the world goes digital, healthcare cannot ignore the need to get on board and upgrade it’s solutions with modern EHR platforms. However, in doing so, it is important to choose a platform that meets compliance guidelines and that will help patients have access to their information how, when, and where they want it. The balance is tricky, but it can be done with the right EHR solutions.
What is Meant By “Information Blocking”?
Information blocking applies to several parties involved in healthcare, including providers, IT developers, and others. The CURES Act prohibits developers, providers, and other health information networks from engaging in any practices that could inhibit patient data from flowing to the proper sources, including the patient.
The focus is primarily on electronic health information, or EHI, which is stored in your EHR for easy access, or in other electronic data. Ultimately, this refers to the patient’s ability to request records in their preferred format. Rather than directing them to the EHR vendor, which could be seen as information blocking, you can reach out to the vendor yourself and obtain the records, or provide patients with the exact details of how to get their records through the EHR.
When patients request data, they can have it printed, exported into another EHR, or even downloaded through a patient portal platform. All of these options should be available for private practices, public healthcare facilities, and even hospitals and emergency departments. Of course, there is the concern that EHRs are not standardized, and as such, migrating or exporting data from one EHR to the next can sometimes be difficult. It is definitely not precise and there is no exact process or guidelines in place.
Existing vendors are required to release information, but even if it’s required to be in a “human readable format,” that doesn’t mean your new EHR will be able to import any of that data in a usable way. It’s better to have an EHR vendor who will help you with transferability, or to present your current vendor with a contract clause that spells out data transferability requirements.
In order to overcome the technical and administrative challenges that come with adopting third-party EHR platforms, the American Health Information Management Assocation (AHIMA) offers five strategies to include in your information blocking plan to ensure compliance and provide consumers with the access and control of their health information:
- Read and know the rules
- Establish a governance structure
- Assess systems for operational and compliance efficiencies
- Evaluate system infrastructure and compliance
- Update policies and procedures
How Can ClinicMind Help?
Privacy and efficiency are paramount in this discussion, as is the need for a strong, protected EHR that both protects patient information and doesn’t prevent them from having access. Automation and AI are helping change the way patients get information, as well as how that information is shared and stored. Now that new EHR software solutions are on the market and new guidelines have been set for information sharing, organizations need to embrace process changes. Some may not have considered this need up until this point, but it is a critical step in moving forward.
While delivering a protected environment for your patient information, our ONC certified solutions streamline practice management and ensure that your patients always have access to the records they need when they need them. We offer a variety of solutions for all types of practices and clinics that need assistance with managing EHI and providing a system that meets the guidelines for the CURES Act to maintain compliance.
We don’t believe that managing your EHR should be at the top of your list. You should have the peace of mind that your platform is the best available and that it’s delivering everything that your patients need. When you choose ClinicMind, you get all that and more. We will take care of all of the training so that you’re ready to hit the ground running.
We can also help you simplify revenue cycle management and create an optimal patient experience, along with providing ongoing support for electronic records, billing, and coding needs, and more.
Protecting patient information has always been a primary concern for caregivers and providers. As the increase in technology has driven the use of EHRs and other tools, developers have also become tasked with creating solutions that don’t block information from patients or other relevant parties but still deliver the level of protection people deserve. The CURES Act is designed to ensure that patients can get information when, how, and where they want it, and with the EHR software solutions from ClinicMind, you too can ensure that your patient records are easily accessible and shareable while still being fully protected.