An Introduction to 21st Century Cures and Its Impact on Health IT

Prior to Congress adjourning for the holidays, the House and Senate passed a major piece of bipartisan legislation that will have significant impacts on health IT. The 21st Century Cures law at its core is focused on “expediting discovery, delivery and development of new cures and treatments” and “maintaining America’s global status as the leader in biomedical innovation.”  This extensive legislative package, which provides for additional funding for NIH, FDA and the states, and addresses issues ranging from precision medicine to opioid abuse, includes a major focus on health IT as the electronic foundation of medical research and care delivery.   

While health IT appears in one form or another in more than 30 sections throughout the 1,000-page bill, there are some key provisions that health IT community should be aware of. The 21st Century Cures law:

  • Sets parameters around FDA regulation of health IT (consistent with HIMSS North America’s Board approved position on regulating health IT);
  • Includes statutory definitions of “interoperability” and “information blocking;”
  • Requests a GAO study on patient matching looking at both HHS’ work in the area as well as technologies and methods currently being utilized by private sector healthcare organizations (closely aligns with a recommendation included in HIMSS’s 2015 Interoperability Congressional Ask);
  • Changes the structure of the HIT Policy and Standards Committees, combing them into one HIT Advisory Committee;
  • Focuses on reducing burdens related to EHRs and federal reporting requirements for providers; and
  • Highlights the critical role of the private sector in standards development and interoperability (reflects recommendations from a multi-stakeholder group co-led by HIMSS).

To learn more about any of these policies, visit the HIMSS Policy Center and view our summary.

HIMSS was actively engaged in the development of the legislation, providing education and technical assistance to House and Senate staff.  As a result, many of the final policies reflect HIMSS positions and feedback, as noted above. Over the course of the next several months, HHS will begin writing the regulations to implement the many provisions of 21st Century Cures, creating many opportunities for HIMSS to leverage our members’ expertise to weigh in. 

Whether it’s supporting transforming care delivery, expanding access, increasing economic opportunity or making communities healthier, health IT is front and center for federal and state policymakers looking to advance critical policy priorities.  The focus on health IT in 21st Century Cures serves as further evidence that health IT is becoming increasingly engrained in the fabric of all aspects of health and healthcare.


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