Data sharing, information technology key to new White House care initiative

Information technology and the interoperability of electronic patient data will be critical components to President Barack Obama's new Health Care Payment Learning and Action Network initiative, National Coordinator for Health IT Karen DeSalvo said at a kickoff event for the effort on Wednesday.

DeSalvo (pictured) pointed to the publication of ONC's interoperability roadmap in January as a lever for improving the way in which information is distributed. The network, she noted, will help government understand where it should lead and where it should partner to enable a patient-centered care system.

"We're working tirelessly to open up data and put it in the hands of patients and providers alike," she said.

The roadmap, she added, will "improve the transparency in the movement of data to meet patients where they are."

The network, DeSalvo said, is neither a "demonstration" nor a "test model," but instead is an effort to mainstream smarter spending and care delivery ideas. "Streamlining, improving the way we pay for care, and the way in which we deliver care and how information is distributed are all essential to improving [patient's] lives," she said.

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell also spoke about the importance of data sharing, saying that enabling consumer and provider access to electronic health information will be a priority. Collaboration from the public, private and nonprofit sectors will be vital, she said.

"We need everyone in this game," Burwell said. "Achieving system-wide improvements and reforms will require a strong partnership. ... If we work together, we will all benefit."

eHealth Initiative CEO Jen Covich Bordenick, who attended the kickoff event, said in a statement that the effort "fits well" with her organization's mission and its own 2020 roadmap, unveiled last November.

"eHI applauds the president and HHS for their leadership on transforming care, and for setting clear objectives that will help the nation make the complex transition to a better healthcare system as smoothly as possible," she said. "Health information technology and the eHI 2020 Roadmap are linchpins in this process and align with what the White House and HHS aim to achieve with the Health Care Payment Learning and Action Network."