This week the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) announced the publication of its health IT strategic plan, also known as the Plan. The Plan was open for comments from March 25 through May 6 and received a total of 240 comments from private stakeholders and the general public.
On its HealthITBuzz blog, the ONC noted several themes that emerged from the comments, and explained how feedback was incorporated into the Plan.
- Privacy and security are key concerns, and HIPAA rules are not the only means available for safeguarding protected health information. HHS is exploring the use of broader privacy and security policies for health information exchange, and has commissioned a workgroup to develop an updated approach. The ONC is also looking into policy changes and technical solutions that would give individuals more meaningful choice in the electronic exchange of their health information.
- Stakeholders are still concerned about the rapid pace of change and deadlines for meaningful use. The ONC realizes that the Plan is ambitious, but firmly believes that the adoption and meaningful use of EHR technology is crucial for setting up the infrastructure needed to meet strategic goals.
- EHR usability must improve in order to encourage adoption and meet the goal of delivering better, safer health care to patients. The ONC will support the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and research to refine EHR usability testing and use protocols targeted at improving safety and efficiency.
- More outreach to providers and consumers is needed to achieve the highest possible participation in the EHR incentive programs. The ONC is working to distribute information and materials both nationally and locally, and is kicking off a campaign this month to increase public awareness about health IT and health information exchange (HIE).
A variety of other comments expressed concern about issues such as barriers to adoption and HIE, the need for further harmonization of standards and the need to expand provider eligibility requirements for the EHR incentive programs.
The ONC stressed that the health IT strategic plan is “meant to be a living document,” so this is by no means the final and only version. The plan will be continually updated based on feedback from evaluation of the meaningful use incentive program.