Posted On: January 3, 2023
I know several of our clients have questions about BlueButtonPRO from Darena Solutions and how it relates to the 21st Century Cures Act and many of our clients’ EHRs. Let me help answer a few of those questions.
First, here is a little background, a “Charlotte ‘cliff note,’” if you will. The 21st Century Cures Act was signed into law in 2016. There is a lot of information in this law concerning EHRs and Electronic Heath Records Information Blocking. Electronic Health Records Information Blocking basically means someone is interfering with patient access to electronic health information. The idea is to make health care information more convenient and accessible to patients and healthcare providers. Just as important as accessibility is that the information also must be kept safe.
To respond to constantly changing technology and the needs of patients and clinics, EHRs must become compliant and certified to keep that information available and safe. How is this done? It’s done using an API (Application Programming Interface). As one of my colleagues put it, you can illustrate an API by thinking of PayPal or Venmo, which, instead of your banking information, is used to protect your money during payment transfers. BlueButtonPRO is like that for healthcare information. It is the API, or bridge, that keeps the health information safe. Not only that, but it must integrate with a patient’s chosen application. Patients are now more mobile and ‘on the go,’ and they use multiple mobile devices/applications to access information. So, the API must communicate the health information using the mandated common “language” (mandated FHIR v4 standard) to the patients’ chosen devices/applications.
One of the questions that I have been asked is why some EHRs are charging separately for the use of the API. Different EHRs are handling the extra expense of API development either by charging separately for a product or by increasing the service fees. Ultimately, EHRs will often recommend an API to work with their software. Clinics can then choose which API will help them the most, based on their circumstances.
So, to sum it up quickly, yes, you must have an API, such as BlueButtonPRO, that will work with your EHR. This will help ensure that your clinic is Cures Act compliant. Remember, deadlines are quickly coming soon. Be sure to start 2023 on the right foot.
The CMS web site has a fact sheet for more information https://www.cms.gov/newsroom/fact-sheets/interoperability-and-patient-access-fact-sheet
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