Cures Certification: Top Benefits for Small Practices

By Sean Ryan, Director, Small Practice Market Segment, NextGen Healthcare
Twitter: @NextGen

You have undoubtedly heard of the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC-Health IT) 2015 Edition Cures Update Health IT certification and the importance of medical providers using a certified vendor. Even so, there is still a large amount of uncertainty around it. So, what is the 21st Century Cures Act? And why is it so important for small practices?

What is the 21st Century Cures Act?

The 21st Century Cures Act was a bipartisan law signed by President Obama on December 13, 2016. The bill set out to increase choice and access to patient care options and streamline medical research and medicine delivery.

To achieve this, the bill put in place a set of rules to prevent information blocking and the subsequent denial of patient information that follows. The goal: ensure patient data sharing and patient access to data and support changes in care plans, providers, or insurance plans.

What is information blocking?

Information blocking is when anyone who deals with the storage of electronic health information (EHI) interferes with the access or exchange of EHI, whether intentionally or not.

Having a Cures-certified health IT (HIT) solution is one of the easiest ways to avoid unintentionally violating the Cures Act. Certified HIT will reduce your odds of accidentally blocking access to important patient data and being penalized.

The penalties of not being certified

Penalties for information blocking can be as much as $1 million per violation. That alone should be enough to make a small practice consider becoming Cures certified.

In addition to those hefty fines, non-compliant organizations risk losing MACRA/MIPS certification and the monetary support it provides. This is another reason why having a Cures-certified EHR provider, especially for small practices, is so important.

While there are exceptions, there are too few to avoid penalties without setting up a definitive plan.

The exceptions include:

  • Preventing Harm
  • Privacy
  • Security
  • Infeasibility
  • Health IT Performance

Become familiar with these and have a plan in place for evaluating information requests to prevent the possibility of penalties for violations.

Long-term benefits of Cures certification

While the monetary benefits that come from avoiding penalties might also seem like a long-term benefit, there are many more ways that being Cures certified can boost success for a small practice.

Being Cures certified not only prepares your practice for the future but also sets you and your patients up for future success.

Better care for patients

Patients with better access to their data can make more informed decisions regarding their healthcare. It can also make using multiple specialties and facilities much smoother, as data can be shared through your EHR.

Interoperability within the industry is paramount for establishing better healthcare outcomes for all. By contributing to that process, you pave the way for a stronger healthcare industry. That’s not even mentioning the benefits you receive from said industry such as medical innovations and improved clinical tools.

Lower costs and increased revenue

Cures certification doesn’t just benefit patients with better outcomes, but practices as well. Even without considering the revenue saved by avoiding costly penalties, there is a lot to gain from certification.

According to a study by West Health Institute, inadequate interoperability measures cost the healthcare industry more than $30 billion a year. This primarily comes from the failure of poorly connected devices and systems failing to share crucial patient data.

Boosting your organization’s interoperability is a great way to reclaim a piece of that lost revenue, which can go a long way for a small practice. And the improved access and efficiencies can result in greater patient satisfaction, which helps grow your practice over time.

Cures-certified EHR: a competitive advantage

Because the Cures Act is mainly concerned with EHI and access to it, the relationship between you and your EHR is extremely important. When you choose a Cures-certified EHR, not only do you benefit from staying up-to-date on government regulations, but you also stand to benefit from the other features of such an EHR.

For example, if Cures certification is a high priority for your EHR provider, likely, staying up-to-date on all certifications is as well. This is an excellent sign for a long-term partnership and even better for practices that want to be effective and competitive.

With Cures specifically, certification revolves around interoperability. An EHR provider that prioritizes interoperability is a great sign that their other services do too. The less hassle a new service brings alongside its intended benefits is a win-win for healthcare providers.

This article was originally published on the NextGen Healthcare blog and is republished here with permission.