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New Federal HIT Strategic Plan Sets Stage for Better Sharing Through Interoperability

Following collaboration with more than 35 federal agencies, the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology recently issued the Federal Health IT Strategic Plan 2015-2020.

The Strategic Plan represents a coordinated and focused effort to appropriately collect, share, and use interoperable health information to improve health care, individual, community, and public health, and advance research across the federal government and in collaboration with private industry.

The Strategic Plan, which is open for comments, serves as the broad federal strategy setting the context and framing the Nationwide Interoperability Roadmap that will be released in early 2015. The Nationwide Interoperability Roadmap will help to define the implementation of how the federal government and private sector will approach sharing health information.

The US Government has led this charge as a major payer, purchaser, and provider of care and associated HIT and through programs associated with the HITECH Act of 2009. HITECH accelerated the adoption of certified EHR technology among hospitals and providers, with 93% of eligible hospitals and 76% of physicians and eligible professionals taking part in the first stage of the Medicare and Medicaid EHR Incentive Programs. In addition, more than 150,000 health care providers across the nation are working with the HITECH-funded regional extension centers to optimize the use of HIT.

"The 2015 Strategic Plan provides the federal government a strategy to move beyond health care to improve health, use health IT beyond EHRs, and use policy and incentive levers beyond the incentive programs," says Karen DeSalvo, MD, national coordinator for HIT and acting assistant secretary for health. "The success of this plan is also dependent upon insights from public and private stakeholders and we encourage their comments."

"We are very pleased to be collaborating with Health and Human Services, and our other federal partners, on developing the Federal Health IT Strategic Plan. This plan aligns with our health IT priorities. As a large provider and purchaser of care, we continually look for ways to expand the sharing of critical health care information with our healthcare partners," says Karen S. Guice, MD, MPP, principal deputy assistant secretary of defense for health affairs for the Department of Defense.  

"The Federal Health IT Strategic Plan collectively represents specific goals and strategies for how interoperability will be leveraged to foster the technological advancement of health information exchange to improve quality of care for veterans while supporting patient-provider interaction," says Gail Graham, deputy secretary for health informatics and analytics at the Department of Veterans Affairs, Veterans Health Administration, Office of Health Information.

Beyond creating financial and regulatory incentives to encourage the use of HIT, the federal government is helping to create a competitive and innovative marketplace. This effort will help bring new tools to HIT consumers and provide tools to help strengthen health care delivery that aligns with other national strategies to improve health including safety, quality, prevention, and reducing disparities.

The Federal Health IT Strategic Plan 2015-2020 can be found on HealthIT.gov. The period to comment on the Strategic Plan ends February 6, 2015.

The data brief found that the ability to easily share electronic information with other care givers, an important component of chronic care management, is also a major motivation for physicians to adopt EHRs. Among physicians who adopted HIT before incentive funds were available, the ability to electronically exchange clinical information with other health care providers was the greatest motivator for adoption. More than one-third of physicians who adopted EHRs after HITECH was enacted cited this capability as a major influence in their decision to adopt, and almost four in 10 physicians who were not using an EHR reported that the ability to electronically exchange clinical information would be a major driver in their decision to adopt.

Source: Health & Human Services