HHS on Friday published a road map to coordinate federal health information technology goals over the next five years, with a focus on pushing forward the department's vision of allowing patients to be able to download their own electronic health data using smartphone apps.
The federal health IT strategic plan, which spans 2020 to 2025 and includes four overarching objectives, is designed to align goals and help prioritize resources related to health IT and health data exchange across federal agencies. It updates a previous federal health IT plan, which ran 2015-2020 and was released in September 2015.
The draft plan outlines four goals: promoting health and wellness; enhancing care delivery; building a data-driven ecosystem to accelerate research and innovation; and better connecting healthcare services with health data. It suggests such broad strategies as encouraging new health IT developers to compete in the market by reducing financial and regulatory barriers; promoting trustworthiness of health IT products by enforcing privacy and security regulations; and promoting competition among health IT developers by making it easier to transmit health data from one product to another.
Much of the road map focuses on allowing patients, providers and researchers to share data through application programming interfaces, the technology that underpins data exchange with various types of software, such as apps. That mirrors a core component of the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology's information-blocking rule, a provision of the 21st Century Cures Act. "The new federal health IT strategic plan continues the momentum created by the 21st Century Cures Act and reflects the federal government's commitment to making patients' electronic health information accessible on their smartphones," said ONC chief Dr. Don Rucker in a statement.
HHS' ONC developed the plan in collaboration with more than two dozen other agencies that regulate, purchase or otherwise use health IT—such as CMS and the Veterans Affairs Department.
The plan's release follows ONC on Thursday announcing it will delay compliance deadlines for the information-blocking rule, which was released in March, until 2021.
While the HHS road map focuses on strategies for federal agencies, ONC officials said they hope release of the final plan will serve as a signal of the government's priorities on interoperability and act as a "catalyst for activities in the private sector," according to a blog post agency officials posted Friday.
"The need to connect healthcare with health data has never been more important given all the challenges we have faced with the COVID-19 pandemic," reads the blog post.