Networking News

Strategic Plan Sets Objectives for Health IT Infrastructure

By Frank Irving

- The Federal Health IT Strategic Plan, released by the Department of Health and Human Services on Sept. 21, aims to enhance the U.S. health IT infrastructure over the next five years. National Coordinator for Health IT Karen DeSalvo described the plan as a means of supporting individuals as they strive to take control of their own health, while improving care delivery and population health and fostering research.

Karen DeSalvo, National Coordinator for Health IT introduced the Federal Health IT Strategic Plan

A draft of the plan had been published in December 2014. The final plan reflects input from more than 400 public comments, collaboration between federal contributors and recommendations from the Health IT Policy Committee.

In regard to enhancing the nation’s health IT infrastructure, the plan establishes five core objectives:

  1. Finalize and implement the Nationwide Interoperability Roadmap.
  2. Protect the privacy and security of electronic health information.
  3. Identify, prioritize and advance technical standards to support secure and interoperable health information and health IT.
  4. Increase user and market confidence in the safety and safe use of health IT products, systems and care delivery.
  5. Advance a national communications infrastructure that supports health, safety and care delivery.

“A fully functional U.S. health system must be a technologically and culturally connected enterprise that facilitates the electronic movement of information,” the plan states. “A solid health IT infrastructure will help to accelerate the interpersonal connections between each participant, and the information that moves between them.”

Additionally, as the healthcare system at large moves toward paying providers based on quality rather than quantity of care, the health IT infrastructure will have to enable expansion of alternative payment models that improve services while reducing costs. Supportive health IT resources may include, all-payer claims databases, registries, EHR systems, health information exchanges, federal claims systems and other data sources.

The plan also acknowledges that common technical standards and specifications will be necessary for health information — both structured clinical records and free-text notes — to move seamlessly and securely. “Initially, federal efforts will focus on efficiently addressing prioritized standards that enable sending, receiving, finding and using a basic set of essential information,” the report states. The Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC) will continue to assess the HIT Certification Program “to ensure it can address and reinforce health IT applications and requirements that support federal value-based and alternative payment models.”

Based on feedback to the draft plan, the final plan seeks to place less emphasis on “data” and “systems” by demonstrating “how individuals, communities, providers, developers and researchers can work together, supported by more useful information and more integrated health IT, to achieve the plan’s vision and mission,” according to the report. “While continuing to expand health IT adoption, this revised plan focuses primarily on how systems and individuals, organizations and communities will use the information that flows through them.”

Federal partners, in coordination with federal advisory committees — including the Health IT Policy and Standards Committees, interagency groups and ONC — will work to implement the plan and publicly report progress toward its goals, the document states. ONC will maintain primary responsibility for plan implementation, supported by commitments to specific strategies from other federal contributors.

The report explains that the federal government will begin to measure the plan’s success by monitoring, and publicly reporting on an annual basis, the following indicators:

  • Percent of office-based physicians who treat patients seen by providers outside medical organizations that have clinical information from those outside encounters electronically available at the point of care.
  • Percent of non-acute care hospitals that routinely have necessary clinical information available electronically from outside providers or sources when treating a patient seen by another provider or setting.
  • Percent of individuals who experienced one or more gaps in health information when seeking care.



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