The new federal health information technology plan focuses less on the implementation of IT systems and more on patients and their healthcare.
The five-year, 50-page Federal Health IT Strategic Plan (PDF) was released Monday by the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology at HHS.
The plan builds upon the electronic health-record incentive payment program, which allowed providers to qualify for payments under Medicare and Medicaid by demonstrating meaningful use of EHRs.
More than 450,000 physicians and other “eligible professionals” and nearly 4,800 hospitals have shared in $31.3 billion.
The new plan sets goals to advance person-centered and self-managed health, transform care delivery and community health, foster research, scientific knowledge and innovation, and enhance the nation's health IT infrastructure.
“As an administration, we're putting the person at the center of their own health data, as opposed to electronic healthcare records and health systems,” said ONC chief Dr. Karen DeSalvo. “We're paying more attention to adoption across the care continuum,” with particular attention paid to finding ways to incorporate long-term care and behavioral health organizations into a national health IT infrastructure.
Both types of providers were excluded from the EHR program.
But interoperability of medical records systems between general healthcare providers and, particularly behavioral health providers, is becoming increasingly important as the nation shifts to value- and outcomes-based reimbursement models.
The ONC and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration are wrestling with approaches that would either leverage new technology to continue to provide special legal protections to behavioral health data, or change the rules to better accommodate the older technology in widespread use.
There won't be a new funding program to incentivize EHR adoption for long-term care or behavioral health organizations, but instead existing programs will be leveraged, DeSalvo said.
The ONC has been working with the CMS and SAMHSA on ways to help long-term care and behavioral health providers, which lag in health IT adoption, including state grants and permitting health IT costs to be included as reimbursable administrative costs for Medicaid managed-care programs.
Meanwhile, a proposed regulation will affect how providers meet and attest for completion of meaningful-use objectives.
The ONC wants to change how EHR developers test and certify their software, a requirement if it is to be used by hospitals, office-based physicians and other eligible professionals seeking further incentive payments.
The College of Health Information Management Executives, a professional association of hospital CIOs, endorsed the plan's goals, and noted an earlier ONC roadmap for interoperability, which dovetails with the plan, “should be a priority for all stakeholders.”
“We cannot achieve the promise of population health and other advances in patient care without the ability to fully and securely exchange data,” CHIME said. “Finally, we are encouraged to see in the plan a recognition of the role privacy and security will play in advancing interoperability and greater adoption of health IT.”
Also lauding the plan was group purchaser Premier, which “strongly supports consumer access to health data in private, secure and meaningful ways through the use of apps and other tools that better enable achievement of health and wellness goals. Second, we are encouraged by the ONC's desire to improve the workflow and automation of quality measures collection and processes as part of a comprehensive strategy to support population health.”
Premier also said ONC needs to “fast track work to finalize interoperability standards necessary for capturing and exchanging information across IT platforms. In many respects, these standards are the essential foundation for every strategic goal outlined in the plan.”