A Robust Health Data Infrastructure

Dr. Karen B. DeSalvo | April 16, 2014

Today HHS posted a report by JASON, an independent group of scientists that advises the Federal government on matters of science and technology, called “A Robust Health Data Infrastructure.”

I am excited about the findings and encourage you to take a look at the report.  It is a comprehensive and thoughtful look at the technical challenges in our health information technology system and proposes a future state that is aligned with the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT’s (ONC) vision for an effective and efficient interoperable health IT “ecosystem” that supports every individual in the care environment and beyond.

Supporting Interoperability

I am pleased that this report is consistent with our intent to support nationwide interoperability in a way that supports care, health and is flexible enough to meet the challenges of the future. The ONC and the Centers for Medicare & Medicare Services (CMS) have already begun to work on many of the recommendations cited in the report–although this represents the beginning, not the end of our efforts.   The JASON recommendations continue to challenge us to stay focused on the path ahead.

This report, done in partnership with and funded by our colleagues at the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) with input from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, comes at an important time in the transformation of our nation’s health care system.  It also comes at a pivotal time for the ONC.  We are evolving from the intense work created by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act including the Meaningful Use program and our grant programs to spur adoption of certified, standard technology, connect care and providers towards improving population health, building capacity in the health-care system to address health IT in the care environment and supporting consumer access to their health information.

Looking Ahead

As we move forward over the next few years, we will be focusing much of our efforts on supporting advanced care models and completing electronic health record adoption across the spectrum of health care. We will use the policy levers available to support the electronic exchange of health information and support consumer engagement in health-care, while trying to reduce health disparities. Finally, we will strive to improve our EHR certification program – while we continue our strong support of the standards and technical infrastructure to reach our goals.

The JASON report builds upon our understanding of the technical, broad policy and privacy and security issues that are both opportunities and challenges as we advance an agenda of meaningful exchange and interoperability.

We look forward to discussing the report’s concepts and approach with our strategic partners and to expanding the scope to include a discussion about governance of the exchange and interoperability infrastructure. The goal is to create a supportive environment for uptake and sustainability. We will move swiftly in the next few months to refresh our Federal Health IT Strategic Plan and then to build a national consensus agenda on health IT.  We fully expect meaningful interoperability to be at the top of this agenda based upon what we have learned to far.

We look forward to engaging with our Health IT Policy and Standards Committees, but also across the health care industry, with consumers, providers, employers, purchasers and health IT developers as we evolve our roadmap for interoperability, a robust health IT infrastructure, and a shared set of priorities for our nation.