Health IT: Moving from Adoption to Person-Centered Health

Published: December 16, 2015

HHSHealth CareHealth ITVA

The goal of person-centered health was one of several themes that emerged from AFCEA Bethesda’s annual Health IT Day on Tuesday.

VA’s CIO LaVerne Council ended the day by asking the audience to imagine a health environment where information from individual’s personal health tracking devices such as a fitbit or calorie counting app, was incorporated into an individual’s health record and available and monitored by their health care team:  A world where someone’s doctor could be alerted to an irregular heart rate in real-time while the individual was working out.

Dr. Karen DeSalvo, National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC), said as part of the Federal Health IT Strategic Plan 2015-2020, her office is promoting a shift from electronic health records being the focal point to the person being the center. This will be achieved by “creating an open world with federal partners and the private sector,” said DeSalvo.  According to the strategic plan, one strategy for achieving this goal is to “support health IT policies that make available products that securely integrate self-generated health information, self-reported outcomes, and genomic information into an individual’s longitudinal care records and self-care and wellness technologies.”

Conference speakers offered a wide spectrum of federal priorities and government initiatives for health IT used to promote veteran and military health, as well as policies and investments meant to advance national health care and population health.  Other themes that emerged at the conference include: 

  • Interoperability 
  • Cloud Computing   
  • Big Data/Analytics 
  • Standardization 
  • Governance 
  • Security 
  • Transparency

Interoperability between DOD and VA EHRs has been in the forefront of debate for years. However, nationwide interoperability between all types of EHRs and health IT systems, both public and private, would greatly advance the ability to deliver coordinated care. To that end, ONC finalized and published an interoperability Roadmap in October entitled, Connecting Health and Care for the Nation: A Shared Nationwide Interoperability Roadmap. The Roadmap coordinates public and private sector efforts to advance the safe and secure exchange of electronic health information across the country to improve individual, community and population health.

FDA and NIH are both using cloud platforms to help advance their agency missions. FDA recently launched an infrastructure-as-a-service platform which has shaved 95% off of their processing time.  What used to take weeks to process, now only takes hours. At the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute within NIH, they are working with Microsoft on a cloud platform to do real-time MRI scanning, reducing processing times from one hour to 20 minutes.


Whether it be through cloud investments, EHR implementation, or use of analytics for medical research, public and private sector organizations have been investing billions of dollars in health IT in the last five years.  We as a nation are now in a position to capitalize on this data and these systems to help improve health.  DeSalvo stated that, “Now we have a foundation.  We can move from adoption to return on investment.”