ONC Unveils Plan To Realize Basic Interoperability by 2017

January 30, 2015 in News

On Friday, the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT released a draft of its 10-year nationwide interoperability roadmap, in which it aims to achieve basic electronic health data interoperability by 2017, Healthcare IT News reports.

The draft roadmap builds on a vision paper released in June 2014 (Monegain, Healthcare IT News, 1/30). The paper outlined goals the agency hoped to achieve over a three-, six- and 10-year time period (iHealthBeat, 6/5/14).

Details of Draft Roadmap

The draft report, titled “Connecting Health and Care for the Nation: A Shared Nationwide Interoperability Roadmap Draft Version 1.0,” outlined short- and long-term goals for the next 10 years, with 2017 set as the deadline by which “a majority of individuals and providers across the care continuum” should be able “to send, receive, find and use a common set of electronic clinical information” (Sullivan, Government Health IT, 1/30).

Specifically, ONC outlined four short-term actions:

  • Establishing a coordinated governance framework and process for nationwide interoperability based on stakeholder consensus;
  • Improving technical standards and implementation guidance for sharing data;
  • Enhancing incentives for achieving interoperability and data sharing goals that are based on a common clinical data set (Murphy, EHR Intelligence, 1/30); and
  • Clarifying privacy and security requirements needed to guarantee secure transmission, access and use of sensitive patient data (Bresnick, Health IT Analytics, 1/30).

National Coordinator for Health IT Karen DeSalvo in an announcement said, “To realize better care and the vision of a learning health system, we will work together across the public and private sectors to clearly define standards, motivate their use through clear incentives and establish trust in the health IT ecosystem through defining the rules of engagement” (HHS release, 1/30).

In addition, the document outlined 10 updated guiding principles for achieving nationwide interoperability over a 10-year period based on stakeholder feedback:

  1. Building upon existing health IT infrastructure;
  2. Understanding that “[o]ne size does not fit all” when it comes to health IT;
  3. Empowering individuals by making electronic health data accessible through the health care delivery system;
  4. Leveraging the market to encourage innovation;
  5. Implementing simpler solutions first, where possible;
  6. Maintaining modularity to create flexibility;
  7. Considering the current environment and supporting multiple levels of advancement to account for different paces and capabilities of adoption;
  8. Focusing on value to yield outcomes such as lower costs and improved health;
  9. Protecting privacy and security to maintain public trust; and
  10. Focusing on scalability and universal access to be able to handle the growing amount of health data and those who will use it (ONC Roadmap, 1/30).

ONC will accept public comment on the draft through April 3 (Healthcare IT News, 1/30).

Meanwhile, ONC also released a 2015 interoperability standards advisory, which reflects “ONC’s assessment of the best available standards and implementation specifications for clinical health information interoperability as of December 2014.”

Steven Posnack, director of ONC’s Office of Standards and Technology, said that an updated advisory will be released annually every December. Meanwhile, comments on the 2015 advisory will be accepted through May 1.

Reaction

Several stakeholders have praised the draft roadmap.

In a statement, College of Health Information Management Executives President and CEO Russell Branzell said, “This is a much-needed playbook for each and every health IT professional.” He added, “Now, health care providers and health IT developers have a single source of truth, with an extensible process to align clinical standards towards improved interoperability, efficiency and patient safety.”

Meanwhile, National Partnership for Women Families President Debra Ness in a statement said the draft is a “very welcome, very promising and very smart next step” toward achieving interoperability (Dvorak, FierceHealthIT, 1/30).

In addition, Healthcare Leadership Council President Mary Grealy in a statement applauded HHS and ONC “on the development of a roadmap designed to lead the nation toward health information interoperability and the improved health care system that will result.” She added, “Secure data sharing that protects patient privacy while making vital information accessible system-wide will strengthen health care quality and cost-efficiency while enabling new breakthroughs in medical research” (HLC release, 1/30).

The roadmap also received praise from eHealth Initiative CEO Jennifer Covich Bordenick, who called it “an important step forward for all of us committed to a data-driven approach to improving health care” (HHS release, 1/30).

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