ONC plan includes private sector

June 1, 2011

The Federal Health IT Strategic Plan is an initiative of the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, which aims to further its goal of working with the private sector to improve quality.

NATIONAL REPORTS-The Federal Health IT Strategic Plan is an initiative of the Office of the National Coordinator (ONC) for Health Information Technology, which aims to further its goal of working with the private sector to improve quality.

Thomas M. Leary, HIMSS senior director of federal affairs, says that this is the first official strategic plan since the office was codified in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

"This is extremely important and helpful to healthcare IT in general," Leary says. "The strategic roadmap has some weight behind it, and it's standards based, which HIMSS and other organizations have been beating the drum about for years."

Goal 1-Meaningful use. Leary says financial incentive programs to drive meaningful use will be of particular benefit within Medicare. He believes a major dent will be made in this goal by 2015.

"We had less than 20% adoption, and in the year since the passage of HITECH and ramping up for meaningful use Stage 1, there was a 10% jump in the number of small practices that have purchased electronic health records," he says.

Goal 2-Improving care and population health while reducing costs through the use of IT.

"Our fear last fall was that if there wasn't a national plan, there would be at least 50 different plans," he says. "It will improve quality across the board and the ability to share data from one jurisdiction to the next."

Goal 3-Inspiring confidence and trust in health IT. Privacy and security are essential factors for all IT applications, otherwise providers won't use them and consumers won't trust them.

"The closer we stick to the HIPAA requirements, the more universal the vendor solutions can be," he says.

Goal 4-Empowering patients. The key will be to determine the appropriate level of consumer participation in personal health records.

"We don't have full buy-in that patient input to the EHR needs to be a component of meaningful use," Leary says.

Goal 5-Rapid learning and technological advancement. A "learning health system" will aggregate and analyze vast data sets to enable evidence-based medicine.

"[The former National Coordinator for Health Information Technology] has talked about a learning health system from the beginning," says Leary. "As far as practical application, we're still learning what ONC means by this."