5 ways ONC is demonstrating health IT progress

The Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT last week unveiled a report updating its progress on five goals outlined in its Federal Health IT Strategic Plan 2011-2015, published in March 2011 by previous National Coordinator David Blumenthal.

The five stated goals from the original plan included:

  1. Achieving adoption and information exchange by meaningfully using health IT
  2. Improving care and population health while reducing costs via health IT
  3. Focusing on ways to improve privacy and security of health information, and expanding ways to increase provider and public understanding of electronic health information and related privacy and security rights under current law
  4. Recognizing the importance of empowering individuals with access to their electronic health information through useful tools as a part of patient-centered care
  5. Achieving rapid learning and technology advancement

ONC officials reported that progress, to date, has included the following:

  • For goal No. 1: 56 states, eligible territories and qualified entities were awarded funding to increase connectivity and enable "patient-centric" data flow. That, in turn has led to improved care quality. What's more, according to the report's authors, the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, in collaboration with public and private partners, has developed standards and specifications that support secure information exchange in alignment with the Meaningful Use EHR Incentive Program requirements.
  • For goal No. 2: The formation of 17 Beacon Communities, which are serving as "test beds" for the use of health IT for boosting quality while reducing costs. "Several Beacon Communities are providing infrastructure for new payment models for accountability and care coordination," the report's authors wrote. "These communities are demonstrating how technology enables high value healthcare."
  • For goal No. 3: Last month, HHS unveiled its final health IT safety plan to eliminate errors related to technology and better protect patients. HHS also is working, according to the report's authors, to "foster widespread use of the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality Common Format documents to identify and describe safety issues associated with the use of health IT."
  • For goal No. 4: Requiring providers, in Stage 2 of Meaningful Use, to ensure that patients have a way to view, download and transmit their health information to a third party. The report's authors also touted ONC's Blue Button efforts, which now include the "Automate Blue Button" initiative, Blue Button+ and the Blue Button "Mash Up" challenge.
  • For goal No. 5: The report's authors highlighted ONC's Strategic Healthcare IT Advanced Research Projects (SHARP) Program, which "funds collaborative research projects with prominent academic institutions, aimed at developing breakthrough technology solutions" for boosting care. They also touted efforts like the Query Health Initiative and the HIT Trailblazer States project, the latter of which "facilitates the sharing of best practices and tools between states" while also helping to connect states with relevant federal work regarding standards and clinical quality measures.

Federal investments in a wide array of programs and activities … have impacted the health IT marketplace, allowing the healthcare system to improve health and healthcare," the authors said. Still, they added, "many challenges remain."

To learn more:
- read the report (.pdf)

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