ONC Cures Act Final Rule: 4 Tips for Compliance by October 6

ONC Cures Act Final Rule: 4 Tips for Compliance by October 6

Is your organization ready for October 6? This is the date healthcare providers, healthcare IT developers of certified health IT and other stakeholders (“actors”) will be expected to share all electronic health information (EHI) to help drive nationwide interoperability—as outlined in the 21st Century Cures Act of 2016 (Cures Act). 

In March 2020, the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) released a final rule implementing interoperability provisions of the Cures Act to promote patient control over their own health record. As part of the final rule, starting on October 6, the definition of EHI will no longer be limited to the EHI identified by the data elements represented in the the United States Core Data for Interoperability (USCDI).  

So, what does this mean for your organization? 

Actors must respond to a request for access, exchange, or use of EHI as defined in the final rule and avoid information blocking, which is any action that could interfere with the access, exchange or use of EHI. Those found to have committed information blocking are subject to penalties, including civil monetary penalties up to $1 million per violation and appropriate disincentives to be established by the Secretary of Health and Human Services. 

We’ve been working with the country’s leading healthcare systems and vendors to prepare them for the October 6 implementation date. One of the things we do is host user groups to take a deep dive into the final rule and help eClinicalWorks users best change their workflows to fit the required changes. 

As we get closer to the implementation date, we’ve noticed there are still many organizations who are educated on the final rule, but may not have a full understanding—or the tools in place—to be compliant by October 6.  

Follow these four tips to get compliant and ensure your patients have the access they need before the deadline. 

Tip 1: Designate a Final Rule Point Person

The Cures Act is a complicated piece of legislation, and the final rule has many nuances, stipulations and exceptions. Your organization needs someone who is knowledgeable enough about the regulation and can serve as the point person to lead your compliance efforts. 

In addition, you need someone who is versed in your organization’s policies and procedures related to responding to patient requests for EHI in a timely manner. 

Compliance is not a set-it-and-forget-it task. It takes vigilance, knowledge and expertise to get in compliance and stay there for the long haul. That’s why your HIPAA compliance officer would make a great candidate to lead the charge.   

Tip 2: Educate Your Staff on Populating the Patient Portal

It’s important for your staff to understand the features and limitations of the final rule to know exactly what information belongs in the patient portal, and what you can exclude that wouldn’t be considered information blocking. 

The final rule lists eight exceptions to information blocking, divided into two categories:[Text Wrapping Break] 

  1. Exceptions that involve not fulfilling requests to access, exchange or use EHI; and 
  2. Exceptions that involve procedures for fulfilling requests to access, exchange or use EHI. 

Training is a crucial component of final rule compliance. Work with your staff to determine the best way to utilize EHR to provide patients with information. For example, build a process for knowing the data that should flow to the portal automatically as opposed to what your staff should transmit manually.  

Then, be sure to audit your portal to ensure the right information is getting to the correctly designated areas. This is another area of opportunity where a final rule point person will come in handy. 

Tip 3: Configure Your Patient Portal Settings

The eClinicalWorks Patient Portal is overflowing with options, features and settings; It can be overwhelming trying to figure out how to properly configure them all to facilitate patient access to EHI while staying in compliance with the Cures Act. 

As a good rule of thumb, you want to enable and configure eClinicalWorks’ recommended Patient Portal settings to be compliant, which include:

  • Feature settings 
  • Visit note configuration 
  • Visit summary configuration 
  • Lab settings 
  • And many more 

Unfortunately, configuring these settings is not as easy as simply clicking a button. In addition, eClinicalWorks features a proxy portal that permits the patient’s guardian or caretaker to have access to the patient’s portal health record. The proxy portal has its own features and settings that must be configured properly to ensure compliance. 

You can find reference guides on the eClinicalWorks portal that have additional details on enhancements and configurations. But if you don’t want to sift through all that, Pivot Point can walk your organization through each configuration, from removing global blocks for labs, DI and procedures to properly administering the proxy portal.  

Tip 4: Inform and Guide Your Portal Users

One of the main points of the Cures Act is to drive the electronic access, exchange and use of health information in order to provide the best patient care possible. But what good does sharing health information do if your patients don’t know how to access it? 

Access is the key to making quality healthcare available to everyone, which is why you should offer the patient portal to all patients while helping them understand this resource and how to use it. 

There are many ways you can work with your patients to educate and build confidence on using the patient portal. They can be as simple as having nurses spend a few minutes going over the portal with each patient before the doctor enters the room. Or, if you have the means to leverage technology, set up a kiosk or booth in the waiting room that patients can use to complete tutorials and walkthroughs. There is no right answer. You just need a gameplan that fits the unique needs of your organization and your patients. 

It may seem like a lot, but all is not lost if you’re behind in your compliance efforts. Pivot Point is here to help answer your questions and assist you with implementation. For more information on the ONC’s final rule, contact our Advisory team at 800-381-9681 or letschat@pivotpointconsulting.com