Healthcare Analytics, Population Health Management, Healthcare Big Data

Tools & Strategies News

ONC Updates Health IT Plan for Population Health, Data Sharing

By Jennifer Bresnick

Population health, data sharing, and continued health IT adoption are major goals in the ONC’s updated strategic plan.

- The ONC is updating its Federal Health IT Strategic Plan to better reflect the current state of the healthcare industry’s adoption of EHR, data analytics, and population health technology.  The plan, originally released in 2011, hopes to guide providers towards the inclusion of more mature data sharing and HIE capabilities, as well as new sources of patient-related data, that will foster a culture of interoperability, care coordination, and better patient outcomes.

Over the past five years, our nation has experienced a remarkable transformation in the collection, sharing, and use of electronic health information,” writes National Coordinator Karen DeSalvo, MD, MPH, MSc, in a preface to the document.  “When we released the prior Plan in 2011, adoption of health IT among hospitals and health care providers was in its nascent stages, Affordable Care Act implementation was commencing, and the use of mobile health applications, especially by consumers, was far from ubiquitous.”

All that has changed in the past few years as widespread EHR adoption and the principles of meaningful use have increased demand for data sharing, analytics, and risk stratification that allows better targeting of needy patients.  The updated plan stresses the government’s commitment to helping providers implement and leverage these technologies as quality programs and pay-for-performance reimbursements continue to ask more from the industry.

The plan outlines strategies to achieve five major goals related to the collection, sharing, and use of healthcare information:

• Expand adoption of health IT

• Advance secure and interoperable health information exchange

• Strengthen healthcare delivery

• Advance the wellbeing of individuals and communities

• Advance research, scientific knowledge, and innovation

These goals are further broken down into multiple objectives.   For example, the objectives that will help to achieve the goal of advancing the wellbeing of individual patients and their communities include empowering patients and their families to manage their own health information, expanding patient engagement, and promoting public health.  To help strengthen healthcare delivery as a whole, the ONC and other agencies will work to improve clinical services centered around population health management and raise healthcare quality and delivery to provide safe, effective, patient-centered care.

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The plan also contains target timeframes for achieving each of these objectives, and includes a list of which agencies might be best suited to collaborate with the healthcare industry to implement reforms.  The three and six year timeframes will be supported by specific strategies that will help to meet the overarching outcomes of each goal.  Tasks such as expanding broadband internet and wireless access to patients who may benefit from telehealth or promoting data portability to reduce barriers to receiving care will enable the healthcare system to make progress.

“This Plan aims to remain flexible to our evolving definitions of health and health care,” DeSalvo says. “We recognize that both traditional and nontraditional sources will engender valuable health information. Expectations for our information systems and users of these systems will increase. During the information age, innovation and technological advancements have been difficult to predict. This Plan accounts for how the federal government views our nation’s current landscape and articulates our values and priorities in shaping tomorrow’s landscape.”

“I am incredibly grateful for the participation of over thirty-five federal entities who worked in concert to develop this Plan, demonstrating the widespread interest across the government to digitize the health experience for every American,” she concludes. “Federal authorities and investments will seek to achieve this Plan’s strategies. However, this is a shared undertaking. Efforts of state, local, and tribal governments, and private stakeholders are vital to ensure that health information is accessible when and where it is needed to improve and protect people’s health and well-being.”

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