21st Century Cures Act Aims to Expedite Medical Innovation

Published: December 08, 2016

Electronic Health RecordFDAHHSHealth ITNIH

Yesterday the Senate passed the 21st Century Cures Act, on the heels of its passage in the House last week. The bill is expected to be signed into law by the President in the coming weeks.

The 21st Century Cures Act is a $6.3 billion package of health innovation bills aimed at expediting the discovery, development, and delivery of new medical treatments and cures.  The act also is meant to help the U.S. maintain its global status as the leader in biomedical innovation. The bill includes $4.8 billion for NIH, as well as $1 billion in state grants to fight opioid abuse. It intends to advance the Precision Medicine Initiative, the Cancer Moonshot, Alzheimer’s research and mental health.

The act will greatly impact U.S. health IT in the areas of medical research, patient access to records, interoperability, elimination of data blocking, EHR certification, and medical device and drug approval.

Provisions of the law with potential impact on federal spending on health IT include:

  • Funding for innovation projects such as precision medicine and the BRAIN initiative, and the Cancer Moonshot at NIH.
  • Instructions for HHS to work with healthcare providers, payers and vendors to reduce regulatory and administrative burdens relating to the use of electronic health records.
  • Authorization of $15 million for ONC’s certification process to improve interoperability and fight information blocking.  Also encourages exchange of health information.
  • Funding for FDA reforms with the aim of bringing drugs and devices to market more quickly and at less cost.

Why should this legislation be important to federal contractors? If you provide health IT solutions to federal agencies, this new act may provide more contract opportunities at NIH for additional technology resources such as cloud, analytics and storage for medical research initiatives. The new law may also provide similar opportunities at FDA as they revise procedures and IT systems to speed approval processing for medical devices and drugs.  The new legislation will likely ease the EHR certification process for providers, which will in turn positively impact federal agencies that provide care and utilize EHRs.