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From Health Law Daily, December 9, 2014

Sharing is caring, federal HIT plan focuses on interoperability

By Bryant Storm, J.D.

The Federal Health IT Strategic Plan for 2015 through 2020 has been released by the HHS Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC). With the help of over 35 federal entities, the plan was developed to increase meaningful utilization of health information technology (HIT) while taking steps to improve the collection and sharing of health care data among health care providers, public health entities, researchers, and individuals. The ultimate goal of the plan, through HIT utilization, is to increase quality of care and reduce health care costs.

HIT. The plan specifies that it intends to set out the federal priorities for the encouragement of the use of products “such as electronic health records (EHRs), mobile and telehealth technology, cloud-based services, medical devices, and remote monitoring devices, assistive technologies, and sensors.” Ultimately, the ONC wants to make health information accessible wherever and whenever it is needed in order to improve the quality of health care.

Update. The new plan is intended to update the last Federal Health IT Strategic Plan, which was made available in 2011. The updated plan is designed to continue where the last plan left off by working towards widespread adoption of HIT, but with a new emphasis on sharing and interoperability of health care data (see, Federal health IT strategy updated, September 19,2011). The update is important, according to the ONC, because of the significant changes that HIT has undergone since 2011. For example, the CMS EHR incentive programs have been very successful at encouraging the meaningful use of EHRs. Notably, “as of June 2014, 75 percent (403,000+) of the nation’s eligible professionals and 92 percent (4,500+) of eligible hospitals received incentive payments from the EHR Incentive Programs.”

Goals. The plan sets out goals separated into three strategies, designated as collect, share, and use. The five goals, which the ONC indicates are federal priorities for HIT, are as follows:

  1. expand adoption of HIT;

  2. advance secure and interoperable health information;

  3. strengthen health care delivery;

  4. advance the health and well-being of individuals and communities; and

  5. advance research, scientific knowledge, and innovation.

The ONC set out specific objectives within each of the priority goals. Some of the specific objectives include increasing user and market confidence in the use of HIT, advancing standards to support the interoperability of HIT, increasing access to quality HIT and services, and investing and disseminating research regarding the ways HIT can improve health care and delivery.

HHS indicated in a press release that the plan is open for a 60 day comment period.

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