ONC Seeks Comment on the Federal Health IT Strategic Plan 2011-2015

Dr. David Blumenthal | March 25, 2011

Providing strategic leadership to public and private sector efforts to improve health and health care through the use of information and technology is a key responsibility of the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC). The Federal Health IT Strategic Plan (“the Plan”) [PDF – 1 MB] is an important tool for guiding national efforts and investments in health IT over the next several years. 

The Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act, part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, requires ONC to update the Plan. The Plan was last published in 2008 and is being updated to take into account the rapidly changing landscape of health IT and health IT policy that has been drastically altered over the past years by two major pieces of legislation that have established an agenda and committed significant resources to health IT—the HITECH Act and the Affordable Care Act.

Over the past year, ONC has worked closely with our federal partners and the private sector (through the HIT Policy Committee) to update the Plan. The Plan reflects ONC’s strategy, developed in collaboration with other federal partners, for realizing Congress and the Administration’s health IT agenda over the next five years.

The Plan starts in 2011, the year when medical care entered a new era—the age of meaningful use. This new era creates opportunities to transform the health care system by improving the flow of information through health IT. Meaningful use is currently aimed at widespread adoption and information exchange, and ultimately at improving health care outcomes. The Plan demonstrates how we will build off the foundation of meaningful use to unlock the power of information to:

  • Enhance our ability to study care delivery and payment systems
  • Empower individuals to improve and participate more in their care
  • Improve care, efficiency, and population health outcomes, through tools such as clinical decision support, real- time feedback of performance to clinicians, and targeted public health campaigns

Some components of the Plan may already be familiar, including the Medicare and Medicaid Electronic Health Record Incentive Programs and the grant programs created by the HITECH Act, which are creating an infrastructure to support meaningful use. However, the Plan also charts new ground for the federal health IT agenda:

  • In Goal I, the health information exchange strategy focuses on first fostering business models that create health information exchange, supporting exchange where it is not taking place, and ensuring that information exchange takes place across different business models.
  • In Goal II, we discuss how integral health IT is to the National Health Care Quality Strategy and Plan that is required by the Affordable Care Act.
  • In Goal III, we highlight efforts to step up protections to improve privacy and security of health information, and discuss a major investment in an education and outreach strategy to increase the provider community and the public’s understanding of electronic health information, how their information can be used, and their privacy and security rights under the HIPAA Privacy and Security rules.
  • In Goal IV, we recognize the importance of empowering individuals with access to their electronic health information through useful tools that can be a powerful driver in moving toward more patient-centered care.
  • In Goal V, we have developed a path forward for building a “learning health system,” that can aggregate, analyze, and leverage health information to improve knowledge about health care across populations.

We are only beginning to unlock the vast promise of electronic health information to improve decision making, help individuals better manage their health, and improve the health system’s capacity for rapid learning. We hope you will join us in this effort by providing comments on the Plan.

The Federal Health IT Strategic Plan: 2011 – 2015 [PDF – 1 MB] public comment period is now closed.

Following the analysis of the comments received during the public comment period, ONC intends to publish a summary of the major themes that emerged from the public, as well as a final version of the Plan on its website.

For more information:

  • Read more about the Plan, including an overview and goals, on the ONC website.
  • Read the HHS press release on the Federal Health IT Strategic Plan.
  • Check out the blog post from Todd Park, Chief Technology Officer, HHS.