EHRs a key priority in 2014 HHS strategic plan

Electronic health records and the Meaningful Use program will continue to be a key focus of the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services in the next few years, according to the agency's latest strategic plan.

The plan, released March 14, outlines four strategic goals for 2014-2018, including strengthening healthcare; advancing scientific knowledge and innovation; advancing the health, safety and wellbeing of Americans; and ensuring the effectiveness of HHS programs. One of HHS' specific objectives to improve healthcare is to "improve ... population health through meaningful use" of IT.

"HHS is facilitating nationwide adoption and exchange of electronic health information by providing financial incentives for the meaningful use of certified electronic health record technology among eligible medical professionals and hospitals," the report states. "This combination of better data through health IT and smarter incentives through delivery reform is foundational to HHS' triple aim of improving health care quality, improving population health, and reducing unnecessary health care costs." 

Several other strategies HHS intends to use to achieve this objective include encouragement of EHR vendors to build security into their products and assessment of provider adoption of EHRs.

HHS has indicated that its performance goals of this objective are to increase the percentage of public health agencies that can receive lab reports and Meaningful Use-compliant messages from hospitals; increase the percentage of primary care physicians adopting EHRs; and identify three key design principles to improve personal health information management.

EHRs also are a key focus area of HHS' Office of Inspector General, constituting a significant part of both its strategic plan and its 2014 Work Plan.

HHS and its subagency, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, have come under fire in recent weeks regarding their oversight of the Meaningful Use program and whether payments made to providers using EHRs are justified.

To learn more:
- here's the strategic plan