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HHS Issues ‘Road Map’ for Improving Electronic Health Information

Government hopes to implement national standards by 2017

The Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) has released Connecting Health and Care for the Nation: A Shared Nationwide Interoperability Roadmap, Version 1.0 –– a plan for moving most doctors, hospitals, and patients to national standards for handing electronic clinical data by the end of 2017.

“HHS is working to achieve a better health care system with healthier patients, but to do that, we need to ensure that information is available to both consumers and their doctors,” said HHS Secretary Sylvia M. Burwell. “Great progress has been made to digitize the care experience, and now it’s time to free up these data so patients and providers can securely access their health information when and where they need it. A successful learning system relies on an interoperable health IT [information technology] system, where information can be collected, shared, and used to improve health, facilitate research, and inform clinical outcomes. This roadmap explains what we can do over the next 3 years to get there.”

The draft roadmap builds on Connecting Health and Care for the Nation: A 10-Year Vision to Achieve an Interoperable Health IT Infrastructure, issued in June 2014. Months of comment and feedback from hundreds of health and health IT experts from across the nation aided in the development of the roadmap, Burwell said.

The announcement was linked with the Obama administration’s Precision Medicine Initiative to improve care and to speed the development of new treatments, as well as with an HHS-wide effort to achieve better care, reduced spending, and healthier people through improvements to the current health-care delivery system, the HHS said. As part of this work, the agency is focused on three key areas: 1) improving the way providers are paid; 2) improving care delivery; and 3) sharing information more broadly to providers, consumers, and others to support better decisions while maintaining privacy. The draft roadmap identifies critical actions needed to achieve success in sharing information and interoperability, and outlines a timeframe for implementation.

The draft roadmap calls for the ONC to identify the best available technical standards for core interoperability functions. The ONC delivered on this action with the release of the Draft 2015 Interoperability Advisory, which represents the ONC’s assessment of the best available standards and implementation specifications for clinical health information interoperability as of December 2014.

The draft roadmap, designed in concert with the Federal Health IT Strategic Plan 2015–2020, is based on a set of building blocks that are needed to achieve interoperability:

  • Core technical standards and functions
  • Certification to support adoption and optimization of health IT products and services
  • Privacy and security protections for health information
  • Supportive business, clinical, cultural, and regulatory environments
  • Rules of engagement and governance.

The public comment period for the draft roadmap closes April 3, 2015. The public comment period for the Standards Advisory closes May 1, 2015.

Source: HHS; January 30, 2015.

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