Posted By Arnav Mathur On October 7, 2021
The Cures Act went into effect in April 2021, and it is meant to bar all healthcare providers and clinics from blocking a patient from being presented their patient data upon request. However, some people have misinterpreted what that legislation actually means. A common misconception is that this means that a patient’s data/chart should be available to them electronically, which is not always the case. If a patient requests to see their medical records and you are physically unable to provide them, you are blocking them, which goes against the Act. The specific notes that must be shared with the patient are: consultation, discharge and summary, physical and history, imaging narratives, laboratory report narratives, pathology reports narratives, procedure, and progress notes.
There are some exceptions to the notes the Cures Act states must be shared with patients. Psychotherapy notes that are not aligned with the patient’s other medical records are not required to be shared with the patient (if the person handling these notes is a mental health professional), or if they were written during a therapy session (whether alone with the patient or with others). Another exception is information which is planned to be used in a civil or criminal lawsuit, or administration action. Another exception are individuals the law specifies are allowed to block patient data, which are called “actors”. These “actors” include: healthcare providers such as physicians, physician assistants, nurse practitioners, nurses, social workers, chaplains, and therapists, along with health information networks, and health IT developers. An example of these “actors” being allowed to block data is if they determine that something in their notes could be detrimental to their patient, as that information could be interpreted differently depending on the individual reading it.
EHRs play a role in this because they can make it easy for a patient to get their medical records by organizing and supplying the patients’ information and presenting it to them in a professional and convenient manner, as opposed to printing a physical copy and waiting for it to be picked up. Having the data able to be submitted electronically vs physically saves time and can be easier on staff, especially if the patient needs to see their information quickly. While the Cures Act does not state anywhere that patient records be made available electronically, it is a great idea to have that functionality through an EHR system.