Dr. Karen DeSalvo's 3-step plan for interoperability

Karen DeSalvo, MD, national coordinator for health IT, is optimistic about the future of the health information technology landscape.

In a blog post written for Health Affairs, Dr. DeSalvo said the federal agency has worked with stakeholders across the spectrum — from hospitals to IT developers to states to research organizations — to determine where the industry stands and where it needs to go.

"I became increasingly optimistic as I heard how committed people were to seeing that we would leverage health IT to the advancement of everyone's health," Dr. DeSalvo wrote.

The country has undoubtedly made progress on IT adoption. The EHR adoption rate is at its highest point ever, at approximately 76.6 percent of providers using electronic records, according to an ONC data brief.

However, there is still work to be done, and Dr. DeSalvo wrote that now the strategic vision for health IT goes beyond EHRs to provide better healthcare for individuals. The industry, she said, needs to first attain interoperability. Dr. DeSalvo outlined three pathways for the industry to arrive there.

1. "Standardize standards."Dr. DeSalvo said the ONC has done its part in promoting universal standards by issuing its Interoperability Standards Advisory that outlines the expectations about which standards the industry should be using.

2. Define the trust environment and shared expectations. The ONC is working with states to define governance rules and determine how to hold people accountable, Dr. DeSalvo wrote. The industry needs to establish concrete, shared expectations and actions regarding data privacy and security.

3. Incentivize interoperability. Dr. DeSalvo said the ONC is committed to using meaningful use, CMS payment rules and other federal programs to incentivize the use of standards and build the environment of trust.

"We intend to use all of the most impactful and appropriate tools in our toolbox and have called on the private sector and states to do the same," Dr. DeSalvo wrote. "Congress is our partner; I am excited to see their interest in making sure that health data is available for consumers, and our doctors, when and where it matters most."

More articles on health IT:

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Life of a healthcare CIO: Walnut Hill Medical Center's Aaron Miri
12 recent vendor contracts, go-lives

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