The 21st Century Cures Act is a sweeping healthcare bill intended to modernize healthcare and medical device innovation by funneling more than $6 billion to federal agencies and the states for research and development and treatment.
Signed into law by President Barack Obama on Dec. 13, 2016, Cures, as it is known for short, provides funding to the National Institutes of Health and the FDA and the states for opioid addiction treatment and mental and behavioral health care.
This video from SearchHealthIT explains how the legislation, approved by a large bipartisan majority of Congress, focuses on cutting-edge healthcare and medical research initiatives overseen by the NIH and other federal agencies.
These projects include the Precision Medicine Initiative, BRAIN Initiative (Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies), Regenerative Medicine Innovation Project and Cancer Moonshot.
For the FDA, Cures significantly loosens regulations governing development of advanced and experimental medical devices, and includes language streamlining the design of clinical trials of prescription drugs.
The video notes that largely because of these provisions, some critics of the bill called the 21st Century Cures Act a giveaway to the medical device and pharmaceutical industries.
However, the bill gained strong support from many in the behavioral health field with its emphasis on improving and providing more federal funding for mental health services and strengthening a 2008 law mandating that insurers treat mental and physiological conditions equally.
As for health IT, the 21st Century Cures Act legislation directs the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT to set up a nationwide health data sharing framework for health information exchanges, healthcare providers and insurers. ONC unveiled its design for the system in 2017
The act also reinforces the government's authority to certify health IT systems and bar health IT vendors and healthcare providers from purposely impeding the sharing of patient health data, the alleged practice known as information blocking.