Interoperability, patient safety key to ONC budget

The $75 million allocated for the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT in President Obama's proposed FY 2015 budget will increase focus on interoperability and patient safety, according to a justification report for the Appropriations Committee from National Coordinator Karen DeSalvo (pictured right).

"The budget provides continuing support for programs that directly support the Meaningful Use Programs; the Certification Program testing tools for developers and strengthened surveillance activities; the Blue Button Program, which engages providers, developers, and consumers to create solutions that empower all participants in health care; and a National Learning Consortium that disseminates best health practices to providers on how to optimize health IT and effective guidelines to achieve meaningful use of electronic health records," DeSalvo writes in an opening letter.

She proposes spending $5 million to launch a Health IT Safety Center focused on collecting benchmark data on health IT-related adverse events in an effort to improve patient safety. This data will form the basis of research and improvement activities that identify and develop health IT tools, interventions and usability standards for widespread implementation, according to the report.

"Although in recent years we have seen a dramatic increase in the number of providers using health IT, ensuring interoperability and patient engagement in their health care are ongoing challenges. As a result, health information can still be costly and difficult to collect, preventing it from being available where and when providers and patients need it most," the report states. "ONC will provide the policies and tools that will ensure health information can securely follow patients wherever and whenever they seek care."

The budget will provide resources to:

  • Continue to focus on the technical challenges related to interoperability and exchange
  • Efforts to show consumers how health IT can empower them to become more active partners in their health.
  • Achieving care coordination, patient engagement and population health management through the optimization and meaningful use of health IT, specifically the EHR certification program.

The budget calls for:

  • $16 million for policy, development and coordination
  • $27.2 million for standards, interoperability and certification
  • $12.9 million for adoption and Meaningful Use of Health
  • $18.6 million for agency-wide support

The proposed budget is $3 million less than what was proposed a year ago, but it represents a $15 million increase over funding actually approved for the agency for FY 2014.

Healthcare executive at the HIMSS Analytics annual conference recently characterized the state of interoperability as a continuing struggle.

To learn more:
- read DeSalvo's report (.pdf)