The 21st Century Cures Act and its Impact on Interoperability and Healthcare

21st century cures act

On March 20, 2020, the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC), released the 21st Century Cures Act: Interoperability, Information Blocking, and the ONC Health IT Certification Program Final Rule. This ONC release was to carry out the 21st Century Cures Act passed by the United States Congress—with the “Final Rule” focusing on providing patients with access to their health information at no cost while addressing the needs of healthcare providers.

The Final Rule supports the use of secure electronic health records (EHRs) and includes provisions for the IT developers who will be establishing EHR platforms according to application programming interfaces (APIs). Other goals: to boost innovation by “fostering an ecosystem of new applications to provide patients with more choices in their healthcare” and to carry out interoperability requirements.

Overall, this Final Rule furthers the trend of patient-focused healthcare.

A Look at Information Blocking

Information blocking is an undesirable practice that will likely result in interference with the access, exchange, or use of electronic health information (EHI), according to HealthIT.gov. Although, in general, the Cures Act prohibits blocking, there are eight exceptions in the Final Rule, including blocking that is intended to:

  • Prevent harm
  • Provide privacy
  • Provide security

Blocking may occur because of:

  • Infeasibility of sharing
  • Health IT performance

Plus, there are situations where fulfilling requests have challenges; they could be because of:

  • Licensing
  • Fees
  • Content and manner

When a healthcare organization doesn’t meet one or more of these exceptions, the practice of not sharing information will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis to see if it rises to the standard of information blocking.

Impact on Payer Organizations

These organizations must gather data points to help prevent information blocking and assist in easy access to and transfer of patient data: data about patient costs, coverages, clinical interactions, and more. Payers have needed to focus on interoperability goals since 2003 because of HIPAA standards; despite that, because of the complexities associated with all the requirements, many payer organizations are not yet in full compliance.

Couple those complexities with challenges associated with the Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (FHIR)—and the ongoing issues surrounding the secure integration of healthcare data from multiple sources—and it’s clear how there’s a way to go in the process. This doesn’t even factor in the authentication measures that are needed for access and transfer of protected health information (PHI).

HealthTECH Resources provides a wide range of payer industry services. These include the implementation, project management, optimization, custom reporting, configuration, business analysis, training, and knowledge transfer of payer applications. Applications include the following: Epic Tapestry, TriZetto Facets & QNXT, PowerMHS, Market Prominence, and HealthEdge HealthRules. To share your situation and specific requirements, please contact us online or call (602) 903-7961. We can discuss healthcare IT solutions for you with no obligation.

Impact on Healthcare Providers

Take a look at this wording by HealthIT.gov about the accessibility of information:

“Patients will be able to access their health information EHRs using an app of their choice in an automated fashion without any action on the part of the provider other than the initial effort to enable the technical capabilities.”

The italics are ours—because of their import on healthcare organizations and their IT teams. As noted earlier in this article, plenty of complexities exist when complying with the Final Rule while navigating HIPAA and other requirements at the same time. So, the “initial effort to enable technical capabilities” that allows you to comply can be challenging. This must be done in a

forward-thinking way as technology and regulations continue to evolve.

Although healthcare organizations are allowed to choose the EHR technology they will use, not all applications will dovetail with your unique needs and processes. Then, all must be implemented, integrated, and optimized to satisfy regulatory requirements and your organization’s method of operations. This is where HealthTECH Resources can help.

Healthcare IT Consulting: Specialized Outsourcing

Your in-house healthcare IT team manages multiple projects and tasks on an ongoing basis. Then, additional initiatives sometimes need to be addressed, ones with bigger scope and more intricacies. When this happens, your IT team may or may not have the bandwidth to handle them without delaying other crucial projects. What impact will this delay have on your healthcare organization? Other times, your in-house team possesses the skill sets needed for the projects they normally handle—but not necessarily for more specialized initiatives. If so, this is perfectly normal.

At this point, you may want to inventory your current IT staff, including their bandwidth and skill sets. Through this process, you will likely identify skills gaps that require filling in. If it’s helpful, HealthTECH Resources’ experienced leadership can help you with this inventory process.

Then, we can strategically augment your IT team with precisely the professionals you need. If, for example, you need assistance in determining which EHR system will best position your healthcare organization for the future, experts from our deep and wide professional network can guide you in your choice based on your goals, challenges, and so forth.

We also have outstanding Healthcare IT professionals who can help with these services: implementation, integration, optimization, training, process documentation, data cleaning and migration, go-live cutovers, post-live support, and more. Some of our experts excel in project management, managing people, processes, budgets, and timelines. If ultimately, you decide to stay with your current EHR application, we can upgrade your software and seamlessly integrate it into other technologies you use.

Healthcare IT solutions we specialize in include:

HealthTECH Resources for Your Healthcare IT Services

With more than twenty years of experience, our boutique-style EMR/EHR consulting agency has developed deep industry connections along with an outstanding professional network. We take a forward-thinking approach, staying up to date with all of the regulatory changes and technological advances in our industry. To discuss how we can benefit your organization, please contact us online or call (602) 806-8949. We can help!