ONC work group: HIT strategic plan lacks consumer focus

While the Health IT Policy Committee's Consumer Work Group (CWG) praised efforts put forth by the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT to update its Federal Health IT Strategic Plan, the group's members say the framework does not go far enough when it comes to consumers.  

The work group met Tuesday to discuss its comments on the strategic plan, which ONC released in December. The group says the plan "reflects a multi-faceted approach to expanding adoption of health IT." However, they also voice concern about how well consumers will relate to the framework and pointed out some missing core principles.

"It is essential that consumers [as partners in care and system design] are reflected in each major area, such as governance mechanisms for information sharing, shaping public health initiatives, advancing precision-medicine, determining research priorities, etc.," the group says.

Some plan changes the group would like to see include:

  • The definition of health IT: The group recommends the definition be more inclusive toward consumers and have language related to mHealth, precision medicine and other technologies apart from electronic health records.
  • Consumers' ability to relate: The CWG feels that the framework is not relatable to that population--especially through the use of the terms collect, share and use. That, they say, pushes provider ownership of data and not consumer ownership.  A shift should be made to focus more on individuals vs. data, they say.
  • Concepts missing from HIT principles: Some additions the work group would like to see included in the plan's core concepts include using health IT to empower consumers and their family caregivers; creating equity and reducing disparities for consumers and help vulnerable individuals; use HIT to create a better experience of care.
  • Amendments to Objectives and Strategies: These must be more consumer-focused, the CWG says. Members want to see the ability for consumers to aggregate data from multiple sources (such as portals and websites), portal usability and design for consumers and access to health information thru mobile devices, among other changes.

Last month, health economist and management consultant Jane Sarasohn-Kahn wrote that consumers will have a massive impact on health IT in 2015. From the use of wearables and patient-generated data to increasing telemedicine efforts to reach patients in need, consumers, Sarasohn-Kahn believes, will "pressure providers to converge toward greater convenience, access, transparency and quality using health IT."

ONC is accepting comments on the plan through Feb. 6.

To learn more:
- download the CWG's comments