The Cures Act and Your EHR: What You Need to Know

Cures Act

Frequently, we are asked “Can my practice be compliant with Cures Act when using Valant?”. The short answer is Yes.

Here, we’ll explain what Cures Act is and what you need to know when evaluating EHR software for your behavioral health practice.

 

What is the Cures Act?

The 21st Century Cures Act (Cures Act) is a federal law that seeks to advance health information interoperability; support access, exchange, and use of electronic health information (EHI); and address practices likely to prevent, discourage, or inhibit the access, exchange, and use of EHI (i.e. “Information Blocking”). It aims to allow patients to easily access and transfer their health data.

What is the “Final Rule” and when does it go into effect?

Earlier this year, the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) released the “Final Rule on Interoperability, Information Blocking, and the ONC Health IT Certification” (Final Rule). The Final Rule applies to health IT developers of certified health IT, health information exchanges and networks, and healthcare providers (collectively referred to as “actors”). It provides implementation requirements for health information technology (health IT) certification and establishes Information Blocking exceptions.

Under the Final Rule, healthcare providers must give patients access to EHI at their request, in the manner requested, and not engage in Information Blocking. The compliance date for Information Blocking requirements is April 5, 2021.

What is considered EHI and what is exempt from the Final Rule?

  • Until May 1, 2022: EHI is data included in the United States Core Data for Interoperability. This includes: allergies and intolerances, assessment and plan of treatment, care team member(s), clinical notes, goals, health concerns, immunizations, laboratory, medications, patient demographics, problems, procedures, provenance, smoking status, unique device identifier(s) (UDIs) for a patient’s implantable device(s), and vital signs
  • After May 2, 2022: EHI is ePHI in a Designated Record Set (as defined in the HIPAA Privacy Rule). EHI does NOT include psychotherapy notes, de-identified information, or information gathered for civil or criminal proceedings.

Should Cures Act factor into your EHR purchase decision?

Under the Final Rule, health IT developers of certified health IT must incorporate standardized APIs into their certified health IT. These are designed to allow patients EHI access through smart phones, and personal computers.

Health IT developers of non-certified health IT (such as Valant and many other EHR vendors) are not required to incorporate those APIs. If a healthcare provider uses certified health IT, they must provide patients their EHI through these methods (at a patient’s request). The Final Rule does NOT require healthcare providers to obtain or use specified technology/health IT, and if their health IT doesn’t technologically allow for the provider to provide EHI access in the manner requested by the patient, they can provide it in another agreed-upon format.

Understanding the Information Blocking exceptions

There are eight exceptions outlined in the Final Rule pertaining to Information Blocking exceptions: Preventing harm, privacy, security, infeasibility, health IT performance, content and manner, fees, and licensing. Learn more about these exceptions here. If all of an exception’s conditions are met, an actor won’t be found to have engaged in Information Blocking.

The “content and manner exception” can apply to healthcare providers using Valant’s behavioral health software, or any other EHR classified as non-certified Health IT. Under this exception, if a provider is unable to provide EHI in the requested format due to EHR/technological limitations, it is not considered Information Blocking. The provider must provide the requested EHI, but may do so in another agreed-upon format (i.e. pull the patient’s data from their record in Valant and send it in a secure manner that aligns with their internal policies and procedures).

Making the right EHR decision for your practice

Now that you understand your responsibility as a healthcare provider to not engage in information blocking under the Cures Act, you can rest assured that using Valant won’t compromise your compliance with it.

However, there are other very important factors to consider when selecting a behavioral health EHR. When you choose the right EHR, you should see remarkable gains in both clinical and administrative productivity. And features such as built-in clinical measures can enable you to elevate the level of care providing to patients and negotiate better rates with insurance companies.

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