3 Things You Need to Know About the 21st Century Cures Act and Interoperability


Yesterday the House passed the 21st Century Cures Act, bipartisan legislation that aims to accelerate the development and regulatory approval of medical innovations. While a large portion of the bill focuses on medical research, there is also a strong focus on promoting healthcare interoperability. This is good news.

Interoperability allows the sharing of data from one provider to another, thus enabling the end user to interpret information in a more meaningful way. The lack of interoperability, on the other hand, creates problems for providers across the country every day. For example:

  • Critical fields are missing from care plans when opened for review by staff
  • Values in a lab report appear in the wrong section of the care plan
  • Hospitals and post-acute care providers are unable to share details of care for the same patient

Patients have complex health needs and it is next to impossible to provide whole person care when care plans contain inaccurate data.

Section 4003 of the Cures Act defines interoperability by the following three characteristics:

  1. Enables the secure exchange of electronic health information with, and use of electronic health information from, other health information technology without special effort on the part of the user
  2. Allows for complete access, exchange, and use of all electronically accessible health information for authorized use under applicable State or Federal law
  3. Does not constitute information blocking as defined in section 3022

So why did congress promote interoperability as a critical component of whole person care? The answer is simple: the need for value-based healthcare through care coordination.

In the last few years there has been a dramatic shift in the healthcare industry towards achieving value-based healthcare—better health, better care, and lower costs (the triple aim). The key to attaining this goal is effective patient care. The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality states that “Care Coordination is the deliberate organization of patient care activities between two or more participants involved in a patient’s care to facilitate the appropriate delivery of healthcare services” — in other words, coordinating patient care between multiple providers to quickly match patient needs with available resources. This is where interoperability comes in. Unless providers can accurately share patient data across multiple locations, they will never have a complete picture of an individual’s health and will fall short of achieving the triple aim. The 21st Century Cures Act takes a big step towards promoting this data sharing and interoperability.

Change in the healthcare industry is inevitable. We will likely see some changes as the Trump administration takes office in January and other changes as the industry as a whole continues to seek innovative solutions to improve care. Once signed by the president, the 21st Century Cures Act with its focus on interoperability will help drive this innovation.

Eccovia is a proud leader in achieving data sharing and interoperability goals with our cloud-based ClientTrack Care Coordination platform.

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