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Healthcare goals ONC official says CIOs should focus on

ONC deputy coordinator highlights healthcare goals -- including improving cybersecurity and lowering barriers to interoperability -- that should be top of mind for CIOs in 2018.

Healthcare organizations ranging from hospitals to health systems to vendors all have certain responsibilities to uphold and healthcare goals to achieve. The to-do list for these organizations is long and contains some lofty goals. While some of these goals, such as improving cybersecurity, should be top of mind for all healthcare organizations, it can be difficult to figure out what to focus on, what to prioritize and what healthcare goals can be left by the wayside for the time being. Other initiatives have so much hype surrounding them it can be difficult to tell how they will truly provide value in healthcare.

Genevieve Morris, principal deputy national coordinator at the Office of the National Coordinator (ONC) for Health IT, offers up which initiatives she would like to see top of mind for healthcare organizations in the new year and the near future.

Moving into 2018, what would you want to say to healthcare CIOs? What healthcare goals do you want them to focus on in the new year?
Genevieve Morris: I really want them to focus on lowering the barriers to interoperability. It's not always the CIO who's putting barriers in place, sometimes there's other folks in the health system, perhaps. But I think I want to focus on lowering those barriers, so whether that be implementing FHIR servers so that you can more easily use FHIR APIs with other people when you're exchanging or offer apps to consumers, things like that, I think that's a great area to focus on. Lowering any of the technical barriers they can to consumers [and] thinking really carefully about some of the remote access issues. I say this because [with the] majority of health systems, I still have to go in person to get access to that portal initially, right? The portal is great. If I have to show up in person to get access to it, that's not really great. It's fine if I've just had an appointment and I'm there ... but sometimes I need access to my data regardless of an encounter I just had, right? I may need my immunization information because I'm going to another country, and I don't have time to come into your office.
So, I would love to see them think about electronic remote ways to identity, proof and authenticate patients that they can get easier access to the portals that they're offering, or use apps and smartphones and some of the technology that we use. I mean, I use my fingerprint scan to get access to PayPal on my phone, right? Things like that are real technology that could be used.

What are other areas of health IT that hospitals, health systems, healthcare vendors, should have at the top of their list?
Morris: You can never forget cybersecurity, and privacy and security generally. Obviously, that wraps around everything we do, right? So if you can't securely and safely exchange the data, then you can't exchange the data. I think health systems and vendors have to be really focused on that. There's just no way around it in the day and age we live in. That should be top of mind for them for sure. If it's not, they should move it to the top of mind. They should definitely check out some of our resources on risk assessments in making sure that they're doing things as safely as they possibly can, or as securely as they possibly can. I think, other than that, while we focus on interoperability and usability, it really is about the patient at the end of the day. I would very much like to see health systems, and providers, and vendors make it much easier for patients to get access to their data.

Just because you've made it electronic, it doesn't mean you've made it easy.
Genevieve Morrisprincipal deputy national coordinator, ONC

I have personally been very frustrated by it, wrote a blog post about it, as a caregiver [and] how hard it was to get electronic medical records for my grandparents who were in the midst of a healthcare crisis. That just shouldn't be the way that it is. I would very much like to see those organizations focus on -- and this is for the health systems and providers -- making their workflows for patient access significantly better than they are today.

Just because you've made it electronic, it doesn't mean you've made it easy.

Have you seen any promising examples of this?

Morris: I'm very excited about some of the work Carin Health Alliance is doing around promoting identity proofing of patients so that they could use apps to get their data in a more easy fashion, but in a secure easy fashion. So, I'm hopeful that some of that work will move that forward, but I think that should be very top of mind for all of these folks because, at the end of the day, this is about the patient. The data is about them and moving it around should be about them as well. And so getting them access to it is an important part of that.

This was last published in December 2017

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What technology has helped you achieve your healthcare goals of addressing cybersecurity or interoperability?