News Feature | July 29, 2015

House Passes 21st Century Cures Act With Interoperability Provisions

Christine Kern

By Christine Kern, contributing writer

Government IT News For VARs

The Bill includes a number of EHR and HIE directives.

In a surprising act of bipartisan cooperation, The U.S. House of Representatives passed the 21st Century Cures Act by an overwhelming margin after it earlier passed through the committee unanimously, according to the Atlantic.

The Hill reports the legislation includes $8.85 billion in research funding for the National Institutes of Health and overhauls the process to assess and approve new medicines, as established by the Food and Drug Administration.

The bill was introduced and supported by House Energy and Commerce Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI) and Rep. Diana DeGette (D-CO), who have spent the past 18 months shaping it. The legislation is also supported by most pharmaceutical and biomedical companies as a measure that will save lives.

According to Healthcare Informatics, the bill – which still must pass the Senate – has important implications for healthcare because it includes language “to deter information blocking and increase incentives for standard identification as a means to foster interoperability.”

The bill requires that HIT systems must allow for secure transfer of all Health information; allow for complete access to, exchange, and use of that information; and prohibit information blocking.

In terms of interoperability, the legislation establishes six categories of standards and made $10 million in funding available for contracts with American National Standards Institute (ANSI)-accredited Standards Development Organizations that help identify or develop standards for the six categories. The categories include vocabulary and terminology, content and structure, transport of information, security, service, and querying and requesting health information for access, exchange and use.

Last month, a coalition of 30 organizations expressed support for the interoperability provisions of the 21st Century Cures Act, asserting that technology will play a crucial role, as Health IT Outcomes reported.

The legislation also mandates compliance with interoperability criteria and standards for EHR vendors who provide services to Medicare or Medicaid participants. CHIME also lauded the provisions of the bill, which was seen as an important step in opening a national conversation regarding the need for a universal approach to patient identification.

The statement read, “We appreciate the Committee’s inclusion of the need to ensure the information in one’s EHR belongs to the patient. We hope that this language will begin a sincere dialogue on the need to address the ongoing patient safety and care coordination challenges arbitrarily imposed by the lack of a national approach to patient identification. Without a patient identity matching strategy, patient data matching errors and mismatches will become exponentially more problematic and dangerous.”