ONC tuning up its public relations approach

It may seem a little backward, considering that we're halfway through the first year of meaningful use, but the government is finally trying to figure out how to communicate with physicians about the value of health information technology.

In a notice printed in the Federal Register, the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC) announced its intention to survey physicians, other clinicians and members of the public to determine the best way to promote the agency's policies.

According to the notice, ONC believes this is necessary to communicate effectively with clinicians. "ONC must determine their informational needs and the most effective communication channels and formats for reaching and educating them about the transition to an electronic records environment," the notice reads. "This information will allow ONC to engage healthcare professionals as partners in the transition."

Despite a drumbeat of publicity about physicians signing up with regional extension centers, attesting to meaningful use, and receiving checks from Medicaid and, this week, Medicare, it remains unclear how many doctors are actually going for the gold. ONC's new emphasis on public relations suggests that it isn't as large a percentage as the government would like.

ONC also wants to win the public's support for the health IT transition, particularly in the area of privacy, which has been a consistent concern of consumers. ONC said it plans to model its public communications strategy after that of other federal agencies such as the National Cancer Institute.

To learn more:
- read the ONC notice
- check out the Health Data Management article

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