National Health Coordinator Releases Strategic Plan for Health IT, Opens Commenting Period


healthitThe Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology has developed a Federal Health IT Strategic Plan for 2015 through 2020, it announced Dec. 8.

The office’s signature effort thus far has been incentive programs designed to encourage the adoption of electronic health records. The new plan is not a radical departure, but does represent more expansive goals.

“The 2015 strategic plan provides the federal government a strategy to move beyond health care to improve health, use health IT beyond EHRs, and use policy and incentive levers beyond the incentive programs,” Karen DeSalvo, M.D., national coordinator for health IT and acting assistant secretary for health, said in a statement.

Far-Reaching Goals

Some 35 departments and agencies at the federal level will be involved in the mission to “advance the collection, sharing and use of electronic health information to improve health care, individual and community health, and research.” There are five more specific goals included in those three subdivisions of collection, sharing and use.

As part of the “collect” aspect of the plan, the coalition of departments will continue to promote the expansion of health technology. This includes EHRs, but also applies to telehealth, mobile tech, cloud-based services and remote monitoring.

Efforts in the “share” phase will be focused on improving sharing of data not only among healthcare providers, but also between patients and their doctors and in the general community.

The goals of the “use” division are further-reaching: to strengthen health services delivery nationally, to advance health and overall well-being, and to support research and innovation in health and scientific fields.

“We are very pleased to be involved in the innovation and installation of advanced technology that supports the National Healthcare Coordinators strategic plan to advance healthcare within the US” says Ernie Chastain of Benchmark Systems Inc. “The benefits of utilizing technology in healthcare to monitor, record,  store, share and analyze data will have a huge impact on conquering disease here and across the world.”

Reducing Disparities

In the announcement of the new plan, the departments involved are situated not as mere overseers or regulators, but rather as drivers of innovation that can lead to stronger and more equitable provision of health services in the country.

“Beyond creating financial and regulatory incentives to encourage the use of health IT, the federal government is helping to create a competitive and innovative marketplace,” a statement from the ONC reads. “This effort will help bring new tools to health IT consumers and provide tools to help strengthen healthcare delivery that aligns with other national strategies to improve health including safety, quality, prevention, and reducing disparities.”

Particular attention is paid to the health of veterans, and both the Department of Defense and the Department of Veterans Affairs will participate in the plan. The Indian Health Service, Administration for Children and Families, Department of Justice and Department of Education are also among the 35 listed in the plan, along with familiar players like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institutes for Health.

The plan now moves into a public commenting phase that will remain open through Feb. 6, 2015. The full plan can be read and comments submitted at

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