May 23, 2022

The 21st Century CURES Act – and its potential to change the face of patient-centered care

Knowledge is power – and both patients and healthcare professionals deserve as much knowledge as they can get.

In my view, the 21st Century CURES Act, initially implemented in the US in 2016 and updated December 2020, offers knowledge that can help propel patient-centered care – but, surprisingly, even healthcare professionals are unfamiliar with the law and its recent updates.
The primary purpose of the update is to make health data accessible and available to patients through electronic formats such as smartphones and patient portals. Tucked away in the changes to the CURES Act are the new data-sharing regulations that bar healthcare providers, including laboratories, from engaging in any practice that may interfere with access, exchange, or use of electronic health information.
According to the US Government Federal Register, the new requirement prohibits the blocking of access to medical records and any attempt to interfere with the process. “Interference could take many forms. In addition to the prevention or material discouragement of access, exchange, or use […] interference could include practices that increase the cost, complexity, or other burdens associated with accessing, exchanging, or using [electronic health information] (EHI). Interference could also include practices that limit the utility, efficacy, or value of EHI that is accessed, exchanged, or used, such as by diminishing the integrity, quality, completeness, or timeliness of the data (1).” This provision lays the groundwork for giving patients control of their health information – including clinical or consultation notes, laboratory test results, imaging, and pathology reports – by requiring that it be available electronically in a fully automated manner and free of charge.