ONC's final 5-year Health IT Strategic Plan: 10 things to know

HHS' ONC has released the final version of its Health IT Strategic Plan for 2015 through 2020, which aims to modernize the country's health IT infrastructure to boost the use of electronic information and improve overall health.

Here are 10 things to know about the 50-page strategic plan.

1. The strategic plan has four overarching goals:

  • Advance person-centered health and self-management
  • Transform healthcare delivery and community health
  • Foster research, scientific knowledge and innovation
  • Enhance the health IT infrastructure of the country

2. The plan outlines how the federal government will support the effective use of information and technology to achieve these goals, but makes it clear that IT in and of itself is not an end goal; rather, it should be used to advance the other strategic priorities of the plan.

3. While the federal government is spearheading these initiatives and the plan focuses on federal strategies, the ONC says the goals require collaboration from private stakeholders and state, territorial, local and tribal governments. Additionally, participation from all stakeholders in the healthcare industry — from individuals to caregivers to payers to academic institutions — is necessary to advance the ONC's mission.

4. The plan outlines key health IT principles to achieve the strategic goals, such as focusing on value, being person-centered, respecting individual preferences, creating an environment of continuous learning and being responsible with the country's money and trust.

5. Industry leaders offered their support for the strategic plan. Debra Ness, president of the National Partnership for Women & Families, said in a statement: "The incorporation of person-centered health as a core goal of the final Federal Health IT Strategic Plan…is a significant and positive step toward the kind of patient- and family-centered healthcare system this country needs. We commend ONC for recognizing that patients, families and caregivers must be able to access, understand, use and share health information in order to achieve a healthcare system that delivers better care, better health and better value.

"By laying out the vision, goals and collective efforts that federal agencies will pursue over the next five years in concert with public and private organizations, the Strategic Plan will help sustain momentum in advancing patient access to tools that can help them understand and manage there are, communicate effectively with providers and participate in efforts to enhance coordination of care across settings and providers."

6. The Premier alliance also issued a statement from Blair Childs, senior vice president of public affairs, in support of the plan and its intended goals. "Premier strongly supports consumer access to health data in private, secure and meaningful ways through the use of apps and other tools that better enable achievement of health and wellness goals. Ultimately, we share the future vision of the ONC to enable applications to securely integrate and exchange information, including data in EHRs as well as health apps that consumers may use to access and share health data with providers.

"Second, we are encouraged by the ONC's desire to improve the workflow and automation of quality measures collection and processes as part of a comprehensive strategy to support population health. More automated measures collection and analytics capabilities, as envisioned in the plan, will go far to improve overall efficiencies and free providers up to spend more time doctoring to patients, and less time doctoring to administrative measures collection.

"Last, we believe it is critical that the ONC fast track work to finalize interoperability standards necessary for capturing and exchanging information across IT platforms. In many respects, these standards are the essential foundation for every strategic goal outlined in the plan."

7. Several initiatives complementary to the plan are already in effect, such as the Blue Button initiative, which encourages patients to download their health records online, and the Precision Medicine Initiative, which President Obama kicked off during his 2015 State of the Union Address. Such initiatives will be carried on alongside other projects to advance toward person-centered care and a stronger health IT infrastructure.

8. The origins of the plan were borne from the ONC's Federal Health IT Advisory Council, which gathered stakeholders from across the industry to discuss health IT concerns. The ONC released a draft of the plan in December 2014 based on the input of more than 35 entities and departments participating in the council. From then through February 2015, ONC sought public comment and received feedback from approximately 400 people and organizations. The final plan was released Monday.

9. Starting in 2016, HHS will provide annual updates on the plan in its Adoption of Health IT and Related Efforts to Facilitate the Electronic Use and Exchange of Health Information report. Additionally, ONC plans to regularly update the Health IT Dashboard to offer progress updates.

10. The agency will also collect information and data from the following three populations to help measure the plan's success:

  • The percent of office-based physicians treating patients seen by providers outside the medical organization and the percent with electronic clinical information from those outside encounters
  • The percent of non-federal acute care hospitals that regularly have necessary clinical information in an electronic format when treating a patient seen at an outside care setting
  • The percent of individuals who experience at least one gap in health information when seeking care

To access the full Health IT Strategic Plan, click here.

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