2010 ONC Update and Grantee Meeting
Dr. David Blumenthal | December 27, 2010
Thank you to everyone who participated in the 2010 ONC Update on December 14-15, 2010 where we had the opportunity to discuss ONC’s strategies and programs, hear about your experiences in the field, assess progress to date, and get caught up on HITECH’s implementation. Video-recordings of the webcast are now available through the ONC website at http://healthit.hhs.gov/ONCMeeting2010.
The 2010 ONC Update was held in conjunction with 2010 ONC Grantee Meeting which brought together for the first time the awardees of all of the ONC programs, including the Beacon Communities Program, Regional Extension Center Program, SHARP Program, State Health Information Exchange Program, and the many Workforce Development Programs.
This year, significant strides were made in health information technology. And for us, information technology has always been a means to an end, the end of improving health, improving the health system, making the lives of our fellow Americans better, making our nation’s health professionals and institutions able to live up to their aspirations, empowering Americans to have and take control of their own health and lives. These are the reasons why the Congress and the President enacted the HITECH Act and the reason that the Office of the National Coordinator exists today.
But, of course, there are many organizations and groups that have those high aspirations. Our unique contribution comes from a core insight that good intentions have to be powered by strong capabilities. And science and technology have created for us an enormously powerful new set of tools in the form of health information technology.
We are here to make sure that those tools are used fully to realize our collective aspirations. Information is the lifeblood of medicine. As health professionals and institutions, we are only as good as the information we have about the patients that we care for. Health IT is destined to be the circulatory system for that information in the decades to come.
The last several months have been a whirlwind of activity. And it is easy to forget how much we’ve accomplished. We established the meaningful use framework, one that I think is unprecedented in the history of electronic health information systems. No other country has laid out a similar framework for what can and should be accomplished using health information technology. And on January 3, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services will launch the registration process for those who wish to participate in the Medicare and Medicaid EHR Incentive Programs.
We’ve issued a standards and certification regulation. As of this week, we have five certifying bodies that are available to certify electronic health records. They’ve certified more than 200 records and modules in the several months since they’ve been in existence.
Regional extension centers — 62 of them — are working hard to provide hands-on assistance to those providers that need the most help in making this transition. As of this week, 30,000 physicians have already enrolled in these extension programs across the United States.
The State Health Information Exchange Program has provided 56 states and territories with planning grants. More than 20 of these states and territories have approved implementation plans, and new implementation plans are being approved every day.
Seventeen Beacon Communities are now in place. They didn’t exist a year ago. They are paving the way toward real improvements in health and health care in the communities they serve, leveraging health information technology. The SHARP Program is tackling new challenges through research and development.
And ONC’s Workforce Development Programs are preparing a whole new workforce and creating new jobs to support the transformation of our health care system through the use of information technology. To date, we have seen more than 3,400 new enrollees in community college programs and more than 400 in University‑Based Training Programs focused on health information technology. And we are well on our way in these very early stages toward meeting that target of 10,000 new health professionals trained annually during the lifetime of the program.
In addition to our grants, we have dozens of contracts that are supporting programs like the Nationwide Health Information Network. And our Health IT Policy Committee and Health IT Standards Committee continue to provide enormously valuable guidance on the many policies and standards that are needed to support execution against our mission.
All of these efforts not only play a critical role in our strategy related to the improvement of health and health care through information technology, but also provide the foundation for health systems change and upcoming reforms in how we deliver and pay for care.
As we look to 2011, there will be many challenges. Driving change is hard. And it takes leadership, commitment and the ability to move forward – despite the many obstacles that each of you will encounter. I hope your sense of contributing something unique to health care and the American people – for most certainly you are – balances the incredibly hard work that you are undertaking. Someday you will look back and realize that you were present at the creation of something big.
Thanks again, and we look forward to our continued collaboration in the new year.