ONC Highlights 2020 Strategies for Health IT

Published: May 13, 2020

Federal Market AnalysisCoronavirus (COVID-19) PandemicHHSHealth ITONC

Last week, the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC) within HHS, published a blog highlighting the Health IT strategic documents it has published thus far in 2020. During the heart of the coronavirus pandemic, a focus on advancing Health IT as a tool to support the fight against the current disease and the prevention of future disease outbreaks becomes imperative.

Key Takeaways:

  • ONC is at the forefront of supporting Health IT advancement and health information sharing by providing strategic guidance.
  • This year, ONC has published three documents aimed at providing strategic Health IT guidance in the areas of federal strategic direction, reducing the burden of Health IT for providers, and establishing priorities for accelerating research efforts.

Now more than ever, using technology to empower clinicians, researchers, and public health officials is of utmost importance. ONC is providing strategic direction for the nationwide adoption of Health IT and health information exchange.

This year, ONC has released three documents aimed at providing strategic Health IT guidance:

In January, ONC released a draft of the Federal Health IT Strategic Plan for 2020-2025, which is meant to serve as a roadmap for federal agencies and the private sector to drive priorities and coordinate efforts. ONC received over 90 comments on the draft plan from consumers, patient advocacy groups, healthcare providers, Health IT developers, researchers, health plans, and other stakeholders. ONC anticipates releasing a final strategic plan later this year.

The Strategy on Reducing Regulatory and Administrative Burden Relating to the Use of Health IT and EHRs was published in February in response to requirements of the 21st Century Cures Act (Cures Act). To study the issues and challenges related to EHR-related burdens, HHS established workgroups to look at the following aspects: clinical documentation, Health IT usability and user experience, EHR reporting, and public health reporting. The report offers 13 strategies and 44 recommendations which meet the following criteria:

  • Achievable within the near to medium term, roughly 3–5 year window.
  • Able to either implement through existing or easily expanded authority, or have significant ability to influence the implementation of these strategies.
  • Include actions that improve the clinical documentation experience and improve patient care.

Also in January, ONC published the National Health IT Priorities for Research: A Policy and Development Agenda. The Agenda envisions using Health IT to accelerate research. It includes recommendations on linking data sources, harmonizing data elements and standards, and leveraging health IT to improve patient participation in research. The Agenda has two overarching goals with nine associated priorities along with steps for achieving the vision and enabling research to happen more quickly and effectively. The two overarching goals are leveraging high-quality electronic health data for research, and advancing a Health IT infrastructure to support research. According to ONC’s blog, it “intends for these strategies and actions to address the data, tools, and infrastructure needs over the next three to five years, enabling researchers to pursue more complex questions and make faster, more reliable discoveries.”

The COVID-19 crisis has brought heightened awareness to the importance of public health and the need for technology to enhance care, improve population health, drive biomedical research, and predict and track disease outbreaks. ONC is at the forefront of supporting Health IT advancement and health information sharing by providing strategic direction.