Updated federal HIT strategic plan focuses on person-centered care

An updated version of the Department of Health and Human Services' federal health IT strategic plan will focus on ensuring care is more person-centered, federal officials said on a call Monday.

The plan, developed by the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT, represents the government's strategy through 2020 for improving the health and wellness of individuals through the use of health IT. It outlines four overarching goals, including:

  1. Advancing person-centered and self-managed care
  2. Transforming healthcare delivery and community health
  3. Improving research and innovation efforts
  4. Enhancing the national health IT infrastructure

National Coordinator for Health IT Karen DeSalvo (pictured) called the plan a "shift" from the government's prior plan, released last December, in which electronic health record adoption by providers was a heavy focus.

"The general shift that this points to is that one, as an administration, we are putting the person at the center of their own health data, as opposed to the center of our health IT approach being electronic health records and healthcare systems," DeSalvo said.

Additionally, she said, ONC is paying more attention to adoption of health IT across the care continuum beyond more traditional Meaningful Use providers, including for behavioral health and long-term post-acute care providers. To that end, DeSalvo said, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services has been working with the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) on ways to digitize their efforts via current channels. Behavioral and long-term care providers are not part of the Meaningful Use program.

"There are ways that we're going to use the existing levers at hand without creating a new program," DeSalvo said.

The National Coordinator also called the plan a more deliberate effort to include a broader array of agencies across the federal government.  

"We wanted to make sure we were looking beyond HHS and really thinking through how the federal government could be clear and consistent around things like setting clear standards that would make us compete within standards and not between standards," DeSalvo said.

Gretchen Wyatt, a senior strategy advisor at ONC's Office of Policy, added that one of the big differences between this plan and the previous iteration is that health IT adoption has reached a tipping point.

"We're now looking at how these systems can actually make a difference in people's lives," Wyatt said. "Originally in the plan, the learning health system was so far down the road that we were very nebulous in what we were saying we were going to do. We've seen the changes that have occurred in the marketplace, and now we're saying how that learning health system will develop."

To learn more:
- here's the updated plan (.pdf)