Health IT R&D Needs According to HITRD

Published: January 30, 2018

Health CareHealth ITResearch and Development

The Health IT Research and Development (NITRD) sector under the Networking and Information Technology Research and Development (NITRD) Subcommittee outlines the current research and development needs for federal health IT investment.

The development of health IT has led the way in improving human health. It has made an impact in the accessibility of medical records, allowed people to monitor their own health, have treatments targeted to an individual profile and improved the outreach of health to those in rural and low-resource regions.

There are several clear motivations in continuing to improve and invest in the research and development (R&D) of health IT. In addition to reducing the impact of disease, health IT will help to address the influx of an aging population and veterans returning with significant health issues. Health IT can also reduce costs through enhanced quality care and more coordinated and effective health delivery methods.

The Health IT Research and Development (HITRD) Interagency Working Group (IWG) released the Federal Health Information Technology Research and Development Strategic Framework to provide the current state of research within the health IT sector. Released last year, the Framework aims to provide an overview of the issues, needs and continued federal investments in health IT R&D

The report defines Health IT R&D as “the use of digital information, data, and technology across the human lifespan in the areas of screening, diagnosis, treatment and surveillance; preventable medical error reduction; disease prevention; self-management of health behavior and wellness; healthcare; and disaster and emergency response that support improved individual and community health outcomes.”

HITRD identifies 17 areas where health IT R&D must expand, each with a description and set of outcomes. Some of these areas include:

  • Advanced analytics
    • Description: Fuse, dissect, match and analyze different types of health data to identify pattern in the detection and prevention of healthcare issues of an individual and a population.
    • Outcome: Precision medicine that is propelled by advanced analytics to develop treatment and prevention specific to individuals.
  • Cyber-physical systems
    • Description: The IoT and sensors will support building both closed-loop and human-in-the-loop evidenced based systems.  
    • Outcome: Home monitoring will allow patients, caregivers, and providers in ongoing care and be notified before a crisis.
  • Infrastructure for sharing and storing data and tools
    • Description: Appropriate infrastructure is needed for the development of health IT tools, including collecting, handling, securely storing, moving, transitioning and integrating data.
    • Outcome: The sharing of data and tools will allow information to move securely between systems and avoid duplication as well as reduce risk.
  • Sensing
    • Description: The development of sensing, including conventional biomedical sensing, chip sensing and contextual sensing of the IoT.
    • Outcome: Sensing will allow for earlier detection of disease by monitoring for early changes in health status.
  • Virtual support/digital healthcare delivery
    • Description: Methods are needed for virtual healthcare delivery and remote participation through the use of intelligent systems. Currently, technologies that enable this capability include telemedicine and remote consultation of software/cameras that often include a wireless component.
    • Outcome: Healthcare providers and patients throughout the country will be efficiently and effectively supported by experts and systems regardless of where they are.

Health IT R&D is unique in that it is multidisciplinary, bringing together biomedical and clinical researchers as well as computer scientists, engineers and those in social, behavioral and economic sciences. Health IT is also not a quick fix, but rather its revelations lead to a new series of scientific advancements. Moreover, it represents the shift from healthcare to preventative medicine by helping understand the origins of health and disease.

Despite these themes, the report states that federal R&D in health IT is segregated, duplicative and contains many gaps. Agencies are making independent efforts to address health IT research challenges. The primary solution, HITRD believes, is to heavily involve industry and academia through public-partnerships. The synergies of these partnerships would help reduce duplication and increase efficiency. The report suggests three funding mechanisms for these partnerships: joint solicitations from multiple funding agencies, independent solicitations with collaborative research and Other Transaction Authority (OTA) for prototypes of R&D that is in the government’s best interest.