ONC Officials Detail EHR Data-Sharing Goals

Alicia Ault

February 03, 2015

Washington, DC — The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) is seeking physicians' input on how it can more quickly achieve interoperability of electronic health records.

The ONC issued a draft report, "Connecting Health and Care for the Nation: A Shared Nationwide Interoperability Roadmap," on January 30 and is soliciting comments through April 3.

"We are serious that we want to hear your thoughts," said Karen DeSalvo, MD, MPH, national coordinator for health information technology, at the ONC's annual meeting, held here February 2.

"This is not something that the federal government should do alone, or can do alone," she said, adding that it was important for clinicians, payers, consumers, states, and the private sector to each play a role.

"It has to be inclusive, and we have to meet deadlines because the country is impatient, as are all of you when you show up in a clinical environment," said Dr DeSalvo.

The "roadmap" sets 3-, 6-, and 10-year goals.

The first target is for a majority of individuals and health care providers to be able to send, receive, find, and use a common set of electronic clinical information by the end of 2017.

"The ability to share and utilize information between two or more information systems is critical in today's increasingly interconnected health care environment, yet significant challenges have impeded information exchange across the spectrum of care," said Robert Wergin, MD, president of the American Academy of Family Physicians, in a statement.

Dr Wergin said that the American Academy of Family Physicians was pleased the ONC had outlined a timeline for getting to interoperability. "We look forward to carefully reviewing and providing input during the public comment period," he said.

Opportunities for Care Coordination

"The average Medicare beneficiary sees two primary care physicians and five specialists every year," said Erica Galvez, the ONC's interoperability and exchange portfolio manager, at the annual meeting. Interoperability provides "a significant opportunity for care coordination," she said.

The roadmap envisions a "core set of building blocks" that are needed to achieve interoperability, including establishing technical standards to allow for common exchange of clinical information, better certification of health information technology products, privacy and security protections, supportive business, clinical, cultural, and regulatory environments, and clearly defined rules of engagement and governance.

The ONC wants to align incentives to achieve all of these goals, said Galvez.

"People need access to the right information at the right time, in a manner they can actually use in order to inform their health-related decisions," she said.

"Connecting Health and Care for the Nation: A Shared Nationwide Interoperability Roadmap." ONC. Published online January 30, 2015. Full text

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