House Approves 21st Century Cures Act with Health IT Provisions, Moves to Senate

This summer the U.S. House of Representatives approved H.R. 6, the 21st Century Cures Act, by a vote of 344-77, sending it to the U.S. Senate. The nonpartisan legislation will help bring the health care system into the 21st Century, investing in science and medical innovation, incorporating the patient perspective, and modernizing clinical trials, to deliver better, faster cures to more patients and patients in need.

The main focus of the legislation is an attempt to remove regulatory roadblocks in the review process for new pharmaceuticals and medical devices on the part of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). In addition, according to Congress.gov, the federal government’s official legislation tracking service, “Requirements are established in the bill for interoperability and certification of health information technology. Practices that discourage the exchange of health information are prohibited.”

Many are praising that the bill is a starting point in the conversation on health IT reform. Leslie Krigstein, interim vice president of public policy of College of Healthcare Information Management Executives (CHIME), released a statement praising the bill’s focus on interoperability. “The 21st Century Cures Act is a landmark piece of legislation that will move our nation closer to a 21st Century healthcare system,” Krigstein said in the statement. “As recognized in this bill, health information technology will serve as the foundation to foster many of the ideologies in delivering lifesaving cures to patients more rapidly.”

Krigstein’s statement went on to say that “The Committee’s choice to tackle the complex issue of interoperability is to be commended. Without nationwide interoperability, we will be unable to derive the value promised by the nation’s $30 billion investment in electronic health records (EHRs). Expediting cures to patients will not be possible without a health information highway that allows providers and patients the data they need, when and where they need it.”

Bill Details

Over the next five years, the bill would provide an additional:

  • $8.75 billion in mandatory funding to the NIH to bolster medical research and
  • $550 billion in funding to FDA

Health IT Provisions

The bill also includes several health IT and interoperability provisions. In January 2018, vendors would have to confirm that their EHR software complies with several interoperability provisions, including:

  • Certain financial details on the pricing of transmitting data;
  • Having application programming interfaces that provide instructions on how to access EHR data to outside users and developers; and
  • Meeting HHS’ standard of allowing “everyday” data exchange

Vendors that fail to comply with such standards would risk having their software decertified for use under the meaningful use program. Under the 2009 economic stimulus package, providers who demonstrate meaningful use of certified EHRs can qualify for Medicaid and Medicare incentive payments

You can learn more about the 21st Century Act and watch for updates on this evolving story with ICON Medical Network.