Earlier this week, President Barack Obama signed the 21st Century Cures Act into law. The Cures Act invests in President Obama's priorities in Science and Health by providing funding for various projects such as the Precision Medicine Initiative and Cancer Moonshot while targeting better EHR use and supporting health data interoperability.
The Cures Act passed both houses of Congress in overwhelmingly bipartisan votes. It passed the House of Representatives 392 to 26 and the Senate 94 to 5.
"We are bringing to reality the possibility of new breakthroughs to some of the biggest health challenges of our time," said President Obama, according to USA Today. "We're tackling cancer, brain disease, substance abuse disorders and more, and none of this would have been possible without bipartisan cooperation from both houses of Congress."
According to Beckers Hospital Review, The Cures Act seeks to speed up the approval of new drugs, invest additional money in medical research, support the fight against the nationwide opioid epidemic and will expand mental healthcare.
The law allocates greater funding for biomedical research by providing $4.8 billion to the National Institutes of Health to be split among four different projects: $1.8 billion will go to the Cancer Moonshot, $1.4 billion will fund the Precision Medicine Initiative, and $1.6 billion will fund the BRAIN Initiative which supports Alzheimer’s disease research.
EHR Intelligence reported that the law specifically calls for the Secretary of Health and Human Services to “establish a goal with respect to the reduction of regulatory or administrative burdens (such as documentation requirements) relating to the use of electronic health records,” and subsequently create a strategy to achieve such a goal.
Those strategies should include incentive programs to spur increased EHR and health IT adoption. These include meaningful use, requirements under the Quality Payment Program, and the Hospital Value-based Purchasing Program.
The bill also states that no later than six months after it has been passed, the HHS Secretary must submit to ONC meaningful use attestation statistics. The Secretary must also make meaningful use hardship exemptions reasonably available to both eligible professionals and eligible hospitals.
Additionally, the law calls on ONC to establish better requirements for health IT interoperability and establish clear language on information blocking.
"The law has provisions that will improve HHS ability to promote interoperability, combat data blocking and foster transparency in the marketplace," said National Coordinator for Health IT Vindell Washington, MD, at the HIMSS Connected Health Conference in National Harbor, Maryland on December 13. "It doesn't have all the funding currently needed, but the infrastructure is set up for us to be successful."
"These efforts build upon the work we have done to improve healthcare over the last eight years. I'm hopeful in the years ahead Congress will keep working together to help us move forward and not backward on improving healthcare for millions of Americans," Obama said. "It's good day to see us doing our jobs."