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ONC Annual Meeting 'focusing on interoperability and outcomes'

It's clear at the ONC Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C., that interoperability has moved up in importance, as have population health efforts.

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- It's all about interoperability, population health, improving healthcare delivery and patient engagement.

As expected, conferees and federal officials here at the ONC Annual Meeting talked little about meaningful use, and to the extent they did, it was about how the federal EHR incentive program was moving into new, more advanced realms as part of its next stage.

"As we look to stage 3, we are listening to the ground about the success stories and also the challenges … and are focusing on interoperability and outcomes," Karen DeSalvo, M.D., national coordinator for health IT, told about 1,000 attendees at the fifth annual ONC summit at the Washington Hilton. "The vast majority of hospitals are using EHRs, and most physicians and clinicians are as well."

The two-day event unfolded just a few days after CMS made a concession to hospitals and doctors, and said it would roll back the 2015 meaningful use reporting period to 90 days, and ONC unveiled its 10-year interoperability roadmap.

As we look to stage 3, we are listening to the ground about the success stories and also the challenges … and are focusing on interoperability and outcomes.
Karen DeSalvo M.D., national coordinator for health IT

On a panel dedicated to big data and improving population health and public health, John Mafi, M.D., advocated for patients collaborating with doctors in their own care. Mafi is a fellow in internal medicine at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston and Harvard Medical School, and a member of the Open Notes patient engagement project, which is a national initiative working to give patients access to the visit notes of their caregivers. When patients have access to their doctors' clinical notes and even have the ability to contribute to them, "patients feel more in control of their own care," Mafi said.

However, Mafi also cited a divide in which a "wealthy, educated elite" uses health IT and tech tools, while poorer, less literate and health-savvy patients are less likely to take part in mainstream healthcare and new wellness programs.

"One of the biggest challenges of this whole movement is to improve the care of the underserved," Mafi said. "What the data really needs is the patient's voice."

The panel's moderator, Wen Dombrowski, M.D., a geriatrics physician executive and noted health IT social media expert, said quantified health devices such as passive and active body sensors -- and areas such as genomics and precision medicine (both part of an initiative announced by President Obama in January) -- offer much potential in the near future.

Panel discusses interoperability standards

On another panel that discussed innovative operability, including open APIs, Neil Evans, M.D., co-director of connected health for the U.S. Veterans Health Administration, said he is focused on "putting data increasingly in the hands of veterans in a consumer-directed health exchange."

Meanwhile, another panelist, former U.S. Chief Technology Officer Aneesh Chopra, who is also founder of Hunch Analytics, said Obama's precision medicine announcement made for "a very exciting day," and is part of a host of positive moves in the health IT world.

"This is the year of opening the connected ecosystem," Chopra said, referring to health IT interoperability.

Chopra urged healthcare providers to call their EHR vendors and ask them to provide Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources servers to use this emerging interoperability standard so they can more easily move health data.

"Let's get moving," Chopra said.

Some of the new, perhaps post-meaningful use health IT approaches are also being adopted by vendors.

Intel's Director of Global Health and Workforce Policy Alice Borrelli, said Intel is working with tens of thousands of its own employees on pilot efforts in New Mexico and Oregon on accountable care organization-like healthcare programs.

"We promised them much faster access and patient-centered care," Borrelli said.

Let us know what you think about the story; email Shaun Sutner, news and features writer, or contact @SSutner on Twitter.

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