ONC gets $22M boost in proposed FY 2017 budget

The Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT and the Office for Civil Rights each receive funding boosts in President Barack Obama's proposed fiscal year 2017 budget, released Tuesday. ONC's proposed funding is $82 million, $22 million more than what the agency was allocated for FY 2016. OCR's proposed funding is $43 million, a $4 million increase from FY 2016.

Notable items identified in the Department of Health and Human Services' budget in brief for ONC include a continued push to improve interoperability, privacy and security efforts, and participation in the Precision Medicine Initiative. ONC would receive $5 million for the latter, to "facilitate development of interoperable and secure health data exchange systems."

Funding for OCR would go toward support of the audit program and modernization of HIPAA.

HHS also notes that the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services will push to increase the use of telehealth both by expanding the ability of Medicare Advantage to pay for such services, which it anticipates could save $160 million over the course of a decade, and by enabling rural health clinics and federally qualified health centers to qualify as originating telehealth sites under Medicare. CMS also plans to add "certain behavioral health providers" to the Electronic Health Record Incentive programs.

"Adoption of interoperable electronic health records by these providers has lagged behind other providers that participated in the EHR incentive program," HHS said. "Facilitating the adoption and meaningful use of electronic health records by the broader community of behavioral health providers will promote the sharing of clinical data needed to provide safe, timely, efficient and effective patient-centered care."

Health IT Now voiced its support for the proposed budget, in particular commending portions focusing on telehealth, Precision Medicine and interoperability.

"Our nation is at a critical turning point in the use of technology to improve care and empower patients," HITN said in a statement. "HITN looks forward to working with both the Congress and the administration to advance policies necessary to advance the use of technology in healthcare."

To learn more:
- here's the HHS budget in brief (.pdf)
- check out Health IT Now's statement (.pdf)

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