Improving family relations and complying with the 21st Century Cures Act

Under normal circumstances, good communication is essential, but post-pandemic and under the new 21st Century Cures Act rules, it is necessary to be more diligent and transparent in communicating with residents and family members.

This takes a great deal of time and organization on the part of the staff and administration. Individual communications take time and accuracy of information is critical. It is not hard to imagine the extra time and information that it takes to do that on a daily basis. Beyond the regular duties of staff, there is charting and sharing information with individual families. The Cures Act requires that it be shared on-demand.  Good customer service dictates that facilities make this information easy to access.  That level of customer service has the benefit of improving family confidence in the facility and staff.

Family relationship improvement

Regular communication has always been a hallmark of great health care, and right now it is even more crucial. Here are a few suggestions for information to share with your families.

  • Ensure that families know whom to call if they have questions, and that the phone will be answered or the call returned.
  • Establish a communication plan that includes regular updates. Don’t make families ask for information — offer it willingly. Be proactive.
  • Ask families for their input. When people are invited to collaborate, especially during times of crisis, they will be more invested in the outcome and success of combined efforts. Families can be a wonderful support, and they may even welcome the opportunity to do what they can to help the facility and staff.
  • Be prepared to repeat information – or deliver it in multiple ways.  When people are stressed, their ability to retain information and recall it accurately diminishes. Exude compassion, expertise, and confidence, but also humility.

Cures Act mandates access to information

As of April 5, 2021, the 21st Century Cures Act requires that patients and family members have access to all of their electronic health information (EHI), structured and/or unstructured, at no cost.  Read the full rules here.  

Many barriers are keeping family members from accessing this information, however.  Only 46% of nursing homes surveyed recently have the capability of sharing health information with families.  See the survey in JAMDA for more details.

Lack of awareness and preparation at facilities are other significant barriers.  A survey conducted by Life Image – a healthcare consulting firm in April found significant gaps in facility awareness and preparation for the 21st Century Cures Act.  A few details:

  • Nearly half of the respondents had either not made any changes or did not know how to ensure their facility meets all of the rule requirements.
  • A majority of healthcare organizations reported not using digital solutions to share healthcare data with patients, with 66% still using paper and 32% using CDs.
  • 47% were not familiar with the term “information blocking.”
  • 48% were not aware of practices or policies that would be considered “information blocking.”
  • 39% did not know they could incur civil monetary penalties for information blocking practices/
  • 15% currently charge $25 or more for patients to obtain records.

Read more here

How’s Mom can help

The How’s Mom Connections Hub and How’s Mom Family App offer a variety of features to facility both better ongoing communications and Cures Act compliance. The following features facilitate regular and on-demand communications:

  • Mass Notifications – communicate with all family members through an in-app broadcast message
  • Family Feedback – gain family insights instantaneously
  • Family Directory – give family members contact info for key caregiving staff

Our Chart View feature allows facilities to comply with the data sharing requirements in the 21st Century Cures Act right in the How’s Mom app.  Facilities using Point Click Care as their EMR provider can offer access to resident vitals, conditions, nutrition orders and medications list on-demand.