ONC interoperability plan draws tempered industry reaction

Reaction to the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT's 10-year interoperability plan, unveiled last Thursday, has been mixed, with organizations calling for stronger language and greater detail but also praising this first step.

Jeff Smith, director of federal relations for the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives, told FierceHealthIT in a phone interview that although the document is important, it lacks detail.

"The issues that are being raised in this document are not unlike issues that were raised two, three, five, 10 years ago," Smith said. "While seeing ONC spotlight interoperability and health information exchange is a very good thing, what we'll need to see next is how they want to turn that policy into reality."

Still, Smith called the interoperability roadmap--anticipated by ONC to be available in the third year of the plan--a foundational element that has been missing from industry efforts for a long time.

"With ONC looking to revise their strategic plan, I'm hoping that as part of that process, the interoperability roadmap gets a little bit more down into the weeds," Smith said.

Meanwhile, Joel White, executive director of Health IT Now, called the paper a "refreshing" and "long overdue" effort.

"Automating yesterday's health system wasn't and isn't the answer," White said in a statement. "We need to achieve ONC's vision more rapidly to give patients the technology they need to actively engage in their own health and wellness."

White also said that ONC should do everything in its power to break down data silos, thus encouraging information exchange, but like Smith, wants the agency's follow-up efforts to go deeper.

"To be successful, we believe ONC must now produce a specific work plan with timelines that achieve the greatest degree of integration," White said.

ONC's paper was published in the wake of a recently announced agency realignment, which aims to streamline processes as federal funding dries up.

To learn more:
- here's White's statement