December 08, 2014 | Mike Miliard, Contributing Editor – Government HIT News

New goals in National HIT Roadmap

The Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT has outlined its Federal Health IT Strategic Plan, 2015-2020, updating the goals of an initiative most recently released in 2011. The new goals in National HIT Roadmap points out ways to better gather, share and put to use interoperable health data, the plan will serve as a broad federal strategy, say ONC officials, helping set the context for the Nationwide Interoperability Roadmap, which is scheduled to be released January 2015.

That roadmap will help to define the implementation of how the federal government can work with the private sector to spur more widespread sharing of health data to improve individual healthcare, drive better community and public health and advance research.

In the meantime, this new strategic plan, developed in collaboration with some 35 different federal entities, lays out five concrete goals related to how data is collected, shared and used.

“Over the past five years, our nation has experienced a remarkable transformation in the collection, sharing and use of electronic health information. Updating the Federal Health IT Strategic Plan 2015-2020 has given us a chance to reflect on our health IT journey,” writes National Coordinator for Health IT Karen DeSalvo, MD, in the new plan’s introduction.

When the first version of the strategic plan was released in 2011, she adds, IT adoption among providers was in its nascent stages, the Affordable Care Act was just getting off the ground and the use of mobile health technology was not as widespread as it is today.

With more than 400,000 eligible hospitals and professionals having managed to digitize their patient records thanks in part to the the EHR Incentive Programs, there’s now a strong demand for seamless information sharing across systems and platforms, irrespective of location or provider.

“With this updated plan, the federal government signals that, while we will continue to work towards more widespread adoption of health IT, efforts will begin to include new sources of information and ways to disseminate knowledge quickly, securely and efficiently,” writes DeSalvo.

The first two goals of this updated strategy prioritize increasing the electronic collection and sharing of health information, while protecting individual privacy. The next three focus on federal efforts to “create an environment where interoperable information is used by healthcare providers, public health entities, researchers and individuals to improve health, healthcare and reduce costs,” according to DeSalvo.

1. Expand adoption of health IT. This goal has three objectives, according to ONC: Increase the adoption and effective use of health IT products, systems, and services; increase user and market confidence in the safety and safe use of health IT; and advance a national communications infrastructure that supports health, safety and care delivery.

2. Advance secure and interoperable health information. Objectives here include enabling individuals, providers and public health entities to securely send, receive, find and use electronic health information; identifying, prioritizing and advancing technical standards to support secure and interoperable health information, and protecting the privacy and security of health information.

3. Strengthen healthcare delivery. Here, the hope is to improve healthcare quality, access and experience through “safe, timely, effective, efficient, equitable and person-centered care; support the delivery of high-value care, and work toward better clinical and community services and population health.

4. Advance the health and well-being of individuals and communities. The aim here is to empower individuals, families and caregivers and to promote public health and “healthy, resilient communities.”

5. Advance research, scientific knowledge and innovation. ONC plans to work toward increased access to and usability of high-quality electronic health information and services; faster development and commercialization of innovative technologies and solutions, and invest, disseminate and translate research on how health IT can improve health and care delivery.

“During the information age, innovation and technological advancements have been difficult to predict,” writes DeSalvo. “This plan accounts for how the federal government views our nation’s current landscape and articulates our values and priorities in shaping tomorrow’s landscape