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ONC’s interoperability roadmap points the way, federal health IT officials say

At 13 pages, it reads a lot longer.

Even officials of the Office of the National Coordinator (ONC) of Health IT at their annual meeting in Washington, D.C., earlier this week sometimes sheepishly acknowledged that their new “10-year Vision to Achieve an Interoperable Health IT Infrastructure” is a somewhat dense document.

But a lot of folks are taking the so-called interoperability roadmap seriously as a spur to action on the part of EHR vendors, health IT software and standards developers, health information exchanges and even patients.

The immediate goal is to start moving past the relatively easy data collection parts of meaningful use and toward the hardest parts: making the data flow and squeezing dramatically better health outcomes out of that interoperability.

The ultimate objective, a decade from now, is the “learning health system,” ONC officials’ and other health IT thinkers’ vision of an interconnected national healthcare network in which all hospitals can absorb and freely use health data from other providers and from individual patients.

It is a world, too, for empowered patients, because they will possess their own health data and share it with whomever they want.

“The evolution of standards, policies, and data infrastructure over the next 10 years will enable more standardized data collection, sharing, and aggregation for patient-centered outcomes research,” the roadmap reads in the concluding section. “Continuous learning and improvement will be feasible through analysis of aggregated data from a variety of sources. Health IT systems will enable both analysis of aggregated data and use of local data at the point of care through targeted clinical decision support (CDS).

“CDS will improve care by taking into account information such as an individual’s genetic profile, local trends in disease prevalence, antibiotic resistance, occupational hazards, and other factors,” the roadmap continues.

By the way, don’t confuse the interoperability roadmap with the Federal Health IT Strategic Plan for several dozen federal agencies. However, the latter plan, which is also stimulating much discussion, was coordinated by ONC and covers the next five years, until 2020.

As for the roadmap, it describes a U.S. health IT “ecosystem” in which:

  • Patients access and share health information
  • The health IT industry values quality and safety in care deliver
  • Population health management efforts and regional information exchanges are widespread and work effectively
  • People within the ecosystem use big data and analytics

In drafting the plan, which will remain open to public discussion and changes until April, ONC “spent 2014 on a path to unlock data so we can put it to use,” ONC chief Karen DeSalvo, M.D., said at the annual meeting.