ONC @ 20: Celebrating the People

Lisa Lewis Person | May 1, 2024

ONC is more than an organization; it is a movement with a clear vision for all Americans to have better health enabled by data. ONC joined the health IT revolution when it was established by Executive Order on April 27, 2004. Let’s celebrate 20 years of progress in transforming American health care delivery!

As with any movement, we have supporters, leaders, strategists, implementers, and future beneficiaries. ONC has been privileged with consistent, bipartisan congressional and presidential support for our efforts. We were established by a Republican president and codified in statute (the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act) by a Democratic president. We also have the support of our industry partners and continue to leverage the involvement of our federal partners as we all work tirelessly to create systemic improvements in health care through the access, exchange, and use of data. As I reflect on this 20th year of ONC, and my 14 years as a leader here, I am filled with gratitude for all our supporters in this critical movement to improve the lives of all Americans.

In Celebration of our National Coordinators

In addition to our numerous supporters, ONC has had leaders serving under four presidents across both parties who continue to work together. Each national coordinator advanced health IT interoperability from one stage to the next by ensuring that we continue building on the foundation established by their predecessors. As an organization, and as a nation, we owe a great debt to each of our national coordinators who sacrificed greatly to lead this movement with a small budget and a small but mighty staff.

Under their leadership, they led programmatic and regulatory work that helped spur certified health IT adoption across the country to over 96% of hospitals and 78% of office-based physicians. We have implemented policy and coordination efforts that are driving the industry toward true interoperability of health information – not just in health care delivery but also public health and behavioral health. We established the United States Core Data for Interoperability (USCDI) to set a continually rising foundation for data standards that support the access, exchange, and use of electronic health information to improve patient care. We administer the ONC Health IT Certification Program to ensure that health IT products meet the technological functionality, interoperability, and security requirements adopted by HHS. Most recently, we have implemented the Trusted Exchange Framework and Common Agreement (TEFCA) to advance interoperability at scale for patients, health care providers, hospitals, public health agencies, health insurers, and other authorized health care stakeholders.

There are many more accomplishments for which we thank our national coordinators, past and present. Their service has forever improved health care of all Americans.

Government Leaders Help Drive Our Vision

In addition to leaders who are at the forefront, every movement has strategists. We have benefited from the most amazing senior executives to ever serve in government. I will not name them all, but I extend my sincere gratitude to each senior executive past and present.

Over the past 20 years, these leaders set the strategic direction and outlined the execution strategy to accomplish numerous milestones. I have been a senior executive in ONC for more than 11 years, and I have served the American people every day with some of the most brilliant leaders; not just in government, but across the nation. Working together, we laid a vision to transform the delivery of health care by harnessing the power of health IT. When you receive your test results immediately – whether you decide to look at them or wait to talk to your doctor – that “power to the patients” is courtesy of ONC leaders and staff. When you open your patient portal or the health app of your choice on your smartphone, know that those technologies were the result of tireless work of ONC leaders and staff. Bottom line – we spend every day working to ensure that all of us have access to our health information when and where it is needed.

Dedicated Staff Bring Our Vision to Life

As with any movement, you also need implementers; those who believe in the vision set forth by the leaders and the strategists and are willing to put it all on the line to make that vision a reality. In ONC, that is our dedicated staff. We have extraordinarily talented, dedicated managers and staff that work diligently every day to serve the American people. It is my great honor to work beside these amazing individuals every day. We are a small but mighty team who are dedicated to achieving better health enabled by data for all Americans. Thank you to all ONC managers and staff present and past.

Better Health for all Americans

Finally, with every movement, the goal is that there will be people who benefit from all the work of the supporters, the leaders, the strategists, and the implementers. At ONC, we want every American, regardless of socioeconomic status, sexual orientation, gender identity, race, ethnicity, and geographic location to have better health enabled by data. We do not want ZIP code to be a key indicator of health outcomes any longer. We believe in health equity for all. By continuing to work together in this movement, we can all realize a future where we no longer need to work to achieve health equity or interoperability of health information, we can simply reap the benefits of it for ourselves and our loved ones.