ONC: Priorities shifting from HIT adoption to flow of data

Computers connecting

Photo credit: Getty/TCmake_photo

The health IT landscape has evolved “dramatically” since the HITECH Act was enacted in 2009. Now, it must shift toward a focus on the flow of electronic information, according to the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT's annual report to Congress on health IT progress.

The report, unveiled Monday, notes that with 96 percent of hospitals and 78 percent of physician offices using electronic health records, a significant majority of people have a “digital footprint” of their health and care experience. ONC now is moving toward seamless and secure data exchange, focused on three priority areas: promoting common standards, including through use of standardized, open application programming interfaces; supporting a business case for interoperability, especially through delivery system reform efforts; and changing the culture around access to information. ONC has also been working on the privacy and security of data and supporting providers who use health IT with assistance and guidance. These efforts will help to advance national priorities, such as the Cancer Moonshot, the Precision Medicine Initiative and combating opioid misuse, according to the report.

The HITECH Act requires ONC to report annually to Congress.

ONC has requested additional authority to combat information blocking, enhance transparency, establish rules of the road for data exchange and to establish a Health IT safety collaborative. It also engages with stakeholders to identify issues and “forge consensus-based solutions.”

Despite all of the progress made in modernizing the nation's healthcare information technology infrastructure, ONC says more work is needed.

"[P]atients, clinicians, hospitals, communities, scientists and researchers have experienced tangible benefits, such as reduced drug-drug or drug-allergy errors and more efficient and coordinated care," the report's authors say, adding that the "seamless" flow of electronic health data remains the ultimate goal. "HHS will continue to work with federal partners, the private sector, and Congress to make electronic health information accessible when and where it matters most, in order to bolster care delivery and coordination, improve the health of individuals and communities, reduce disparities, fuel research and innovation, and spur advancements in scientific discovery."