Unlocking Patient Access: The Cures Act Information Blocking Provisions

On April 5th, 2021, the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) finalized the Cures Act’s information blocking provisions. These new rules focus on data exchange and patient information blocking. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) states:

“Putting patients in charge of their health records is a key piece of patient control in health care, and patient control is at the center of HHS’ work toward a value-based health care system.”

Patients have long struggled to gain access to their medical records both in hospitals and outpatient facilities. This has been complicated by the proprietary nature of the Electronic Health Record (EHR) and the lack of interoperable standards for data sharing. The new data exchange and interoperability rules will have a profound effect on an individual’s ability to manage their health information. Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) and apps will provide patients with greater control over health data, images, and clinical documentation housed in the EHR.

What This Means for Patients

Patients will have greater access to their medical records at any point in their healthcare journey, regardless of the proprietary nature of the software system. For example, if a patient is discharged from the Emergency Department (ED) a notification must be transmitted to the patient’s primary care provider (PCP), established practice group, or covered entity (ACO), and a copy of the visit made available for care coordination. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) encourages hospitals to include the patient’s chief complaint, a medication profile, discharge instructions, and a diagnosis. The rules state that providers must:

  • Provide patients with access to their medical record
  • Limit information blocking by sharing patient data with insurance companies, employers, and consumer-facing apps
  • Release lab, radiology, and/or pathology results
  • Update information in federal databases and provider directories

What This Means for Providers

The rules require that vendors open up access to the information via an API. Providers will have to re-assess and revise longstanding information sharing practices.

From a technology standpoint, providers will need to:

  • Enable patient-facing technologies (patient portals, kiosks, and apps)
  • Measure and report performance improvement efforts
  • Maintain up-to-date information in provider directories
  • Support greater transparency efforts in clinical data sharing

How Automation is Streamlining These Efforts

The use of Robotic Process Automation (RPA) raises opportunities for health informatics and information management. By streamlining some of the requirements for the providers regarding unstructured data, automation can make it easier to find unsigned provider notes, see if there’s a diagnosis code, and notify the provider, portal, or patient of any changes or updates to the healthcare information record.

Automation can speed data sharing requests and improve the interoperability effort between disparate systems, by combing through volumes of data, automating the collection, and reporting and ensuring that privacy protocols are in place when capturing and/or sharing health information.

Why Boston Software Systems?

At Boston Software Systems, we’re excited to see these new patient-centric standards, but we understand the stress this places on vendors and providers during an already challenging year. BSS has been working across the continuum of healthcare, providers, vendors, payors, and patients for decades to make data sharing across disparate platforms easier for all. We continue to support a sustainable operating model, one that reduces the challenges associated with interoperability and access, and reflects the needs of end users.

We’re happy to discuss how these rules and regulations can be streamlined for efficiency in your business model. Give us a call. With most solutions live in <30 days, we can help you achieve your goals faster and with less disruption.

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