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ONC Releases Interoperability Roadmap Draft

Health and Human Services' (HHS) Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) recently released "Connecting Health and Care for the Nation: A Shared Nationwide Interoperability Roadmap Version 1.0." The draft Roadmap is a proposal to deliver better care and result in healthier people through the safe and secure exchange and use of electronic health information.

"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 both to consumers and their doctors," says HHS Secretary Sylvia M. Burwell. "Great progress has been made to digitize the care experience, and now it's time to free up this 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 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 three years to get there."

The draft Roadmap builds on the vision paper, "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 HIT experts from across the nation through ONC advisory group feedback, listening sessions, and an online forum aided in the development of the Roadmap.

"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. We look forward to working collaboratively and systematically with federal, state, and private sector partners to see that electronic health information is available when and where it matters," says Karen DeSalvo, MD, national coordinator for HIT.

The announcement is linked with the administration's Precision Medicine Initiative to improve care and speed the development of new treatments, as well as the departmentwide effort to achieve better care, smarter spending, and healthier people through improvements to our health care delivery system. As part of this work, HHS is focused on three key areas: improving the way providers are paid, improving and innovating in care delivery, and sharing information more broadly to providers, consumers, and others to support better decisions while maintaining privacy. The draft Roadmap identifies critical actions to achieve success in sharing information and interoperability and outlines a timeframe for implementation.

The draft Roadmap calls for ONC to identify the best available technical standards for core interoperability functions. With the announcement, ONC is delivering on this action with the release of the Draft 2015 Interoperability Advisory: The best available standards and implementation specifications for interoperability of clinical health information ("Standards Advisory"). The Standards Advisory represents ONC's assessment of the best available standards and implementation specifications for clinical health information interoperability as of December 2014.

"ONC's interoperability Roadmap will help guide our progress toward seamless integration of electronic health record data," says Christopher Miller, program executive officer for Defense Healthcare Management Systems within the Department of Defense. "We are proud to be working closely with ONC and other public and private partners to ensure that our health care providers have a complete picture of health information from all sources. The availability of this information increases the medical readiness of our operational forces and enables delivery of the highest quality care that our service members, veterans, and their families deserve. We look forward to our continued partnership with ONC as we expand the safe and secure exchange of standardized health care data to improve the overall health of our nation."

"The benefits to patients and to the future of American health care in achieving full interoperability are enormous. A system built on accessible information and secure, meaningful data sharing will elevate health care delivery, advance quality and cost-efficiency and enable new strides in medical research. We applaud HHS and the Office of the National Coordinator for making interoperability a national priority and we believe that, by bringing together the ideas and technological expertise from both the public and private sectors, it is a foreseeable and achievable goal," says Mary R. Grealy, president of the Healthcare Leadership Council.

"Interoperability plays a critical role in improving the quality, cost, and patient experience of care and is foundational to both consumer decision-making and new models of health care delivery and payment," says Janet Marchibroda, director of the Health Innovation Initiative and executive director of the CEO Council on Health and Innovation at the Bipartisan Policy Center. "We applaud ONC's leadership in creating the roadmap and releasing the standards advisory, as well as its ongoing commitment to public engagement in shaping a path forward."

"While we have made great strides as a nation to improve EHR adoption, we must pivot towards true interoperability based on clear, defined, and enforceable standards," says College of Healthcare Information Management Executives President and CEO Russell P. Branzell, FCHIME, CHCIO. "This Roadmap incorporates a tremendous amount of stakeholder input and articulates a clear path towards interoperability. It is a cornerstone in the continuing evolution of federal health IT policymaking."

"The HHS interoperability roadmap announced today is an important step forward for all of us committed to a data-driven approach to improving health care. If the public and private sectors will work together on solving the interoperability challenge, we have a chance to significantly improve the practice of medicine and, most importantly, the health of patients across this country. I applaud HHS for its leadership in this area, and I look forward to partnering with the agency on this important initiative," says Jennifer Covich Bordenick, CEO of eHealth Initiative.

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

• core technical standards and functions;

• certification to support adoption and optimization of HIT products and services;

• privacy and security protections for health information;

• supportive business, clinical, cultural, and regulatory environments; and

• rules of engagement and governance.

The draft Roadmap and Standards Advisory are available for viewing at www.healthit.gov/interoperability. 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: The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology