HHC Unveils Updated HIT Strategic Plan, Invites Comments

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imageThe HHS Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) is inviting public comments on its “Federal Health IT Strategic Plan: 2011-2015”, released March 25. An update of ONC’s original 2008 health IT strategy, the new plan reflects the enactment of the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act and the Accountable Care Act. David Blumenthal, MD, national coordinator for health information technology, announced Friday that ONC will be accepting public comments on the plan until April 22. Blumenthal, who deems 2011” the new era of Meaningful Use”, says the plan contains a number of broad goals, including achieving adoption and information exchange through the meaningful use of health IT; leveraging health IT to improve patient care and population health while reducing healthcare costs; and inspiring confidence and trust in health IT. Other goals encompass empowering individuals with health IT to improve their health and the healthcare system and achieving rapid learning and technological advancement. "Some components of the plan may already be familiar, including the Medicare and Medicaid Electronic Health Record Incentive Programs and the grant programs created by the HITECH Act, which are creating an infrastructure to support meaningful use," Blumenthal notes. "However, the plan also charts new ground for the federal health IT agenda." The 80-page plan also incorporates input as to how the federal government can achieve the goals outlined in the document. Among proposed steps are accelerating EHR adoption; providing implementation support; supporting the training of an expanded HIT workforce; and encouraging the utilization of Meaningful Use in medical education and certification. "The adoption and Meaningful Use of EHRs is the unifying focal point of our strategy," Blumenthal asserts. As of late Thursday afternoon, 28 comments had been posted on ONC’s Website. Some posters are concerned that ONC may not have conducted a sufficiently extensive review of available standards for vocabularies used in data exchange. Others note that when clinicians acquire EHR products now, they “marry” a database structure—but the cost of new products and data migration is prohibitive. Another poster writes that if a system does not follow the flow of the clinical work, it will likely not be adopted and will not be used to achieve Meaningful Use criteria.