Electronic Health Information and the 21st Century Cures Act: An Update
You may have noticed some lab results posted to your Patient Portal sooner than before. This change reflects a federal law called the 21st Century Cures Act.
What is the 21st Century Cures Act?
The 21st Century Cures Act is an extensive health reform law enacted by the U.S. Congress that, among other provisions, will require all clinicians, hospitals, and health care systems to release electronic health information to patients as soon as it becomes available.
What changes should I expect?
Westmed has begun to automatically release lab results to the portal as soon as we receive them. This could mean that, at times, your results are released to you before your provider has reviewed them.
While some practices and departments are at different stages of implementation, our goal is to achieve consistency across our organization by 2023. In addition, we are adapting our processes to protect privacy and other sensitive information.
Ultimately, our efforts will promote transparency and ensure faster, more convenient information access – and advance our commitment to you for a simpler, more connected health care experience.
What does this mean for me?
If you have a Westmed Patient Portal, you will be able to see various clinical documents as soon as they become available, including:
- Notes related to your visits
- Lab, pathology, and radiology results
It is important to remember that since your health information is released so quickly, you may see your results before your provider does. Your provider will review your information as soon as possible and, as always, if you have any questions, do not hesitate to contact your provider.
What should I know to appropriately understand my results?
- Some results may be marked as abnormal when compared to the preset normal range for the lab. However, they may be normal for you.
- Not all abnormal results are clinically relevant. Interpretation along with your provider is important.
- Be aware that you may see results that are difficult to understand or indicative of serious illness. For that reason, you may want to wait to learn your results until your provider contacts you.
- Results are autopublished as they become available, so you may see some results while others are still not finalized.
- If you are concerned that test results will make you nervous, consider NOT looking at the results until your provider reaches out to you. This is an especially important consideration late in the evening or on a Friday. This can make the evening or weekend very stressful.
What if I prefer not to see my results before my provider?
While some people like seeing their results immediately, others may feel anxious and would prefer that their provider first review and interpret the results. If you would prefer not to see your results before your provider, please let your provider know when the lab or test is ordered so that he or she can hold the results until you can be contacted.
Will the law affect my electronic health information access as a caregiver?
Caregiver access for parents, legal guardians, and health care proxies (someone allowed to access a patient’s health information) remains available and in accordance with the HIPAA Privacy Rule.
Are there exceptions to what I can see?
The 21st Century Cures Act’s rule regarding “information blocking” prohibits activity that interferes with the “access, exchange, or use of electronic health information.” That said, the rule includes exceptions to prevent harm, protect privacy, and comply with other laws. There may also be limitations in full transparency of records due to technical infeasibility. You can read this document for detailed information regarding information blocking exceptions.
Accessing electronic health information
Consider creating a Patient Portal account to access information from your Westmed visits conveniently and securely.