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ONC Plan Aims at Behavioral Health EHR Adoption, HIT Use

By Kyle Murphy, PhD

ONC’s updated federal health IT plan looks to increase behavioral health EHR adoption as well as health IT use across the care continuum.

The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) has issued its first update to the Federal Health IT Strategic Plan by laying out five goals and first on the list is EHR adoption among behavioral health, post-acute and long-term care, and other providers not eligible for meaningful use incentives.

“It’s a critical piece of the puzzle to see that we can connect care and paint a picture of someone’s overall health in a more holistic way,” National Coordinator Karen DeSalvo, MD, MPH, MSc, told reporters Monday about extending EHR adoption across the entire care continuum.

Whereas the EHR Incentive Programs have clearly demonstrated the use of certified EHR technology by eligible professionals and hospitals, little is known about EHR adoption among non-eligible providers and this presents a challenge to the ONC.

“We actually don’t have a baseline for the data, which is one of the challenges around understanding the degree of the challenge ahead of us as a country, but it is something that we have been discussing with this council,” DeSalvo explained.

The Federal Health IT Strategic Plan 2015-2020 signals an effort on the part of the ONC and other agencies within the Department of Health & Human Services “to advance the care continuum as part of the overall digital picture of the patient’s health” through the adoption and implementation of health IT systems and services, added DeSalvo.

“We’ve already been doing quite a bit of work with our policy and standards committees around what that kind of technology and policy infrastructure would need to look like with respect to policy and data collection,” she continued. “So we have been trying to get ahead of it last couple of years and now thinking through what are the ways that the cost might be offset and that there might be some continued encouragement on the ground.”

The update plan comprises a total of five goals:

1. Expand adoption of health IT

• Objective A: Increase the adoption and effective use of health IT products, systems, and services

• Objective B: Increase user and market confidence in the safety and safe use of health IT products, systems, and services

• Objective C: Advance a national communications infrastructure that supports health, safety, and care delivery

2. Advance secure and interoperable health information

• Objective A: Enable individuals, providers, and public health entities to securely send, receive, find, and use electronic health information

• Objective B: Identify, prioritize, and advance technical standards to support secure and interoperable health information

• Objective C: Protect the privacy and security of health information

3. Strengthen healthcare delivery

• Objective A: Improve health care quality, access, and experience through safe, timely, effective, efficient, equitable, and person-centered care

• Objective B: Support the delivery of high-value health care

• Objective C: Improve clinical and community services and population health

4. Advance the health and well-being of individuals and communities

• Objective A: Empower individual, family, and caregiver health management and engagement

• Objective B: Protect and promote public health and healthy, resilient communities

5. Advance research, scientific knowledge and innovation

• Objective A: Increase access to and usability of high-quality electronic health information and services

• Objective B: Accelerate the development and commercialization of innovative technologies and solutions

• Objective C: Invest, disseminate, and translate research on how health IT can improve health and care delivery

Although the ONC obviously champions the role of health IT in healthcare’s move from volume to value, its chief recognizes its limitations and role as a catalyst for change rather than the answer itself. “Technology is really important, but it is an underpinning to the overall goal that we have which is better health. And one of the pathways to better health is better care,” added DeSalvo.

The Federal Health IT Strategic Plan 2015-2020 is open for public comment for the next 60 days.

The full plan is available here.




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