Be Kind & the 21st Century Cures Act

I remember when I was first taught to dictate consultations. I was a resident doing a genetics rotation. My mentor, Peter Dignan, made several suggestions. One was to try to always include something nice about the patient. Many of my current colleagues are amused how many of my patients are ‘delightful.’ While there are a lot reasons for putting some kind information in the medical record, Dr. Dignan emphasized that patients and families can get hold of their records and undoubtedly they would appreciate a friendly word. Now with the 21st Century Cures Act Final Rule, access to records and notes will expand considerably and Dr. Dignan’s advice is probably even more important.

A good source of information on this new law, which is in effect Nov 2nd, 2020, is from the 33charts blogCures Act Final Rule – How It Will Change Medicine: “The ONC Cures Act Final Rule (Cures Rule) is the biggest health care law you’ve never heard of. But it’s a law that’s going to fundamentally shift the way we see patients and their information. It will change how physicians talk to patients about information. It will shift the way health professionals connect patients to their information.” This blog post details how this change is going to affect both healthcare providers and families. The two key changes are

  • Access to clinical notes (ie, ‘open notes’)
  • Immediate release of tests and studies.

The key point: “The Cures Rule will force health systems to be better stewards of information on behalf of our patients. I think this is going to force health professionals to help patients think about information and what they do with it. It will force patients to recognize the difference between information and knowledge and wisdom. I suspect that the most critical ultimate change will be transparent conversations and more timely physician follow-up on high stakes studies.”

Another take on the 21st Century Cures Act: C Blease et al. Annals of Internal Medicine; 2020: https://doi.org/10.7326/M20-5370. New U.S. Law Mandates Access to Clinical Notes: Implications for Patients and Clinicians

Some additional information (from EPIC training) — there are limited exceptions for note sharing:

Another reference:

My take: When this rolls out, a lot of physicians (myself included) will need to make some adjustments; since it is the law, don’t expect to avoid these changes. I expect early on this will generate a lot of additional questions and phone calls. In the long run, this is likely to improve communication, transparency, and availability of patient information. For example, it is more likely that needed lab results from referring physicians will be more available after this law is in effect.

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