Addressing interoperability in healthcare through legislation

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact daily life, addressing interoperability in healthcare is critically important. So, we pored over the most recent legislation on the topic – the 21st Century Cures Act – and learned about the new responsibilities payers have in healthcare interoperability. Read a snippet of our summary below.
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The 21st Century Cures Act addresses the issue of interoperability in healthcare throughout many volumes of text. While it’s too many pages for most of us to read, that’s not the case for Ann Phillips, Manager of Government and Standards at IMO. She diligently analyzed the legislation to extract the important information payers need to know – since the recent Rules officially bring them into the interoperability equation. Here’s an excerpt:

Looking at the legislation

The 21st Century Cures Act – signed into law in December 2016 – is one of the most significant pieces of healthcare legislation passed in the last decade. Cures is wide-ranging, with provisions for expanding health sciences research; improving access to addiction and mental health services; and advancing HIT. Cures authorized funding for National Institutes of Health (NIH) innovation projects in precision medicine; brain and cancer research; and regenerative medicine, as well as for the development of community-based programs to address the opioid crisis and initiatives to expand access to mental health services.

Cures significantly impacts HIT because it mandates patients have access to an increased amount of their own medical information. Furthermore, it targets the practice of information blocking by requiring electronic health record (EHR) systems to be more interoperable. Collectively, these two provisions should help reduce physician burden and aid patients in accessing information needed to make informed decisions about their care.  

But the HIT provisions in Cures are mostly unfunded. Instead, Cures directed the secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to develop regulations through the notice and comment rulemaking process. As a result, tying regulatory requirements into the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services’ (CMS’) payment programs – with requirements for HIT to support CMS payment programs overseen by the Office of the National Coordinator (ONC) – became critical to developing actionable policy.

For more on how the 21st Century Cures Act impacts payers and interoperability in healthcare overall, download our latest white paper, The 21st Century Cures Act: A payer’s perspective, today.
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