Providers to ONC: Strategic plan needs more detail

The Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT's updated 2015-2020 strategic plan sets lofty goals, which provider groups say need to be more "refined."

The strategic plan includes five sweeping goals: expanding the adoption of health IT, advancing data sharing, strengthening healthcare delivery, improving patient engagement and advancing research and innovation.  

In a comment letter dated Feb. 6, the American Hospital Association (AHA) says that having broad goals is important, but data sharing and technical standards are "prerequisites" to some of the goals and should be priorities. AHA expressed concern as to how the goals would dovetail with expectations in the private sector, considering the "tremendous" burdens already being placed on it. The association also said that ONC should work on patient matching and make the plan more specific.

"AHA encourages ONC to provide more details on how goals will be met, including specific activities by individual agencies, expected timelines for completion of those activities, and an assessment of whether existing federal resources are sufficient to complete all of the goals outlined," AHA Senior Vice President of Public Policy Analysis and Development Linda Fishman said in the letter. 

Premier healthcare alliance echoed the call for more specificity, writing in its comments that the strategic plan is a "useful blueprint," but the challenge will be defining and implementing the methods to achieve the goals. Premier suggested that interoperability be a priority, and recommended that open-source software architecture or open application programing interfaces be required, as well as source codes that enable and facilitate interoperability as part of certification.

Neither comment letter referenced the Meaningful Use program.

Interoperability is the current front-burner item in the health IT industry. However, opinions differ as to how to achieve it, and ONC's interoperability roadmap, released last month, indicates that the agency is exploring several options. ONC's Health IT Policy Committee in December approved the JASON Takes Force recommendations, which included coordinated architecture and public APIs.

The public comment period on the strategic plan ended on Friday.

To learn more:
- read the AHA's letter (.pdf)
- download Premier's letter