This act specifies that clinical notes collected in an electronic format must be made available in that format and made available free of charge to patients.
Practices may continue using paper charts, and if you do not use electronic records, the 21st Century Cures Act likely has little impact on your practice. Since you are not using electronic health records, you wouldn’t be information blocking or in violation of the Cures Act by not having records available via electronic format as they are not maintained in that form.
The Cures Act requires that records maintained electronically must allow secure access by the patient to their records at no charge.
The 21st Century Cures Act is different from HIPAA because it includes not just patient data access—which in some cases could start and end with a copy of one’s health records—but also clinical notes. In essence, the Cures Act is putting into action widespread OpenNotes, the health data philosophy that all patients should have access to the notes their clinicians take during health encounters.
This requirement is different from those indicated in the HIPAA Privacy Rule because it requires patients to have immediate access to their digital data, such as via a patient portal.
If you are using electronic health records it is imperative to contact your vendor to assure their system has a protocol for such compliance.
Network members, please contact Sam for more details as there are exemptions and specific requirements not detailed here.