Top Takeaways from the 2021 ONC Annual Meeting

Cannon Leavelle | April 6, 2021

ONC Leader Gives Health IT Vision 

ONC’s newly appointed national coordinator Micky Tripathi introduced the 2021 ONC Annual Meeting by sharing his vision for the future of health IT strategy and policy throughout the healthcare system. He talked about the agency’s role in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, striving for health equity through the use of health IT (he calls it “equity by design”), advancing interoperability of health information, and reducing the burden of health IT on clinicians. 

Addressing Persistent Inequities in Health Care 

A key focus of this year’s Annual Meeting was the impact of social determinants of health (SDOH) data in health care. Panelists highlighted how health IT can enable the use of standardized health data to help identify and eliminate health and social inequities. Health information exchanges can help drive SDOH efforts, as shown in one session. Another session highlighted health data and interoperability-related activities and approaches across several HHS agencies. 

Unlocking the Full Potential of Health Data 

To realize the full potential of electronic health data, it needs to be usable across a wide range of applications, from clinical to research. Breakout sessiondelved into current efforts to improve precision medicine through evolving health data standards and how data standards drive modernization. Panelists in one session discussed ONC’s Advancing Standards for Precision Medicine work, sharing progress on two different use cases, and walked attendees through what it takes to put a new data standard into practice for the collection of patient data outside of the clinic. Meanwhile, panelists in another breakout shared their perspective on organizational and structural efforts needed to meet the increased demand for standards development, and how the nature of the standards themselves has changed. 

Comment Deadlines for USCDI V2 Quickly Approaching 

ONC is continuing to accept comments on version 2 of the United States Core Data for Interoperability (USCDI) standard through April 15. USCDI is a set of standards aimed at creating a foundation for broader sharing of electronic health information to support patient care. This draft version includes 11 new data classes that were selected from more than 100 submissions. ONC will review the comments on both these new classes as well as those not selected to see if new or expanded information could bring cause for reconsideration.  

Reducing the Burden of Health IT on Clinicians 

In one session, panelists highlighted real-world use cases and shared their perspective as clinicians on how health IT can add undue burden to clinician workflows. They noted how the evolving regulatory landscape and advances in technology help to reduce overall clinician burden, and help clinicians to spend more time on patients and less time on paperwork. 

Another session featured panelists discussing how new automation technologies could help to further reduce administrative, regulatory, and clinician burden. Panelists involved in ONC’s effort discussed ONC’s upcoming policy and development agenda, while highlighting advances in workflow automation and opportunities from various stakeholder perspectives. 

Showcasing Promising Tech Solutions 

Each day included a Tech Showcase, featuring rapid-fire presentations about some promising solutions and toolkits designed to improve health IT.  During the Health IT Consumers Tech Showcase, we heard from recent STAR HIE winners, provider- and patient-facing solutions, and community health leaders about their work to improve users’ experiences when interacting with healthcare technology.  The next morning during the Health IT Infrastructure Tech Showcase, we heard from stakeholders who are improving the underlying technical infrastructure supporting important efforts around synthetic health data generation and pediatrics, to name a few. 

Recognizing the Health IT Community  

Overall, a common sentiment among presenters and health experts was one of appreciation – the health IT infrastructure and ecosystem stood up to the vital test of the COVID-19 pandemic. Collaboration and partnership between federal agenciesprivate organizations, and non-profits proved invaluable as they worked together to hit big milestone achievements – using FHIR API to create vaccine location app, and enabling 7,200 healthcare facilities to send more than 7.1 million electronic case reports for COVID-19 to 63 public health agencies, as of March 19, 2021.  

While much more work lies ahead, the 2021 ONC Annual Meeting also showcased several educational and informational sessions that provide a good blueprint for how this community of health IT professionals will continue to strive for nationwide interoperability 

Missed the Annual Meeting or want to re-watch sessions? Everything is available on-demand!