Karen DeSalvo: We must 'roll up data into big data' for population health management

With the expansion of health IT and electronic health records comes opportunity for the industry and country to take data and use it to better serve both individuals and populations throughout the U.S., National Coordinator for Health IT Karen DeSalvo said in an interview with The Nation's Health.

Data can provide a broader view of population health, DeSalvo said, which can help communities prioritize which health issues are the most pressing.

"It's also an important time for us to recognize that really improving the quality of care, and seeing that we're able to spend our dollars more wisely in that care system, requires us to really roll up data into big data," she said.

She added that it's important to make that data open not just to providers and clinicians, but also to patients.

At a meeting in the District of Columbia last July, DeSalvo said while the agency's federal strategic plan to date has focused on improving quality and lowering costs via programs like Meaningful Use, ONC is looking to expand that sphere to efforts around areas like patient-generated health data.

"There's an opportunity to be more inclusive of data sources, not only from public health, but social and human services agencies and, of course, patient-generated health data and patient-reported outcomes," DeSalvo said in the meeting.

ONC released an updated version of that Federal Health IT Strategic Plan in December, with interoperability as its main focus.

One aspect of the plan is to create standards that help guide EHRs and other IT products, DeSalvo told The Nation's Health, so a mental health provider or nursing home knows what they're going to get when making an IT purchase.

However, some providers say the plan sets goals that are too lofty and needs to be more refined.

To learn more:
- read the interview