ONC Designs a Roadmap for Health IT Interoperability

The Office of the National Coordinator (ONC) outlined a 10-year plan that will strengthen the nation's health IT infrastructure by 2024. This interoperable system would promote a "continuous learning" environment that would enforce higher-quality data standards, improve population health, better engage patients, and lower care delivery costs.

The Office of the National Coordinator (ONC) outlined a 10-year plan that will strengthen the nation’s health IT infrastructure by 2024. This interoperable system would promote a “continuous learning” environment that would enforce higher-quality data standards, improve population health, better engage patients, and lower care delivery costs.

Interoperability is not only garnering the interest of health leaders, it’s a crucial component of stage 2 meaningful use of electronic health records (EHRs). With data and patient engagement, interoperability can ensure that information is effectively shared between physicians, hospitalists, and other healthcare professionals who require access to a patient’s health information. It is also essential to patient-centered care.

“An interoperable health IT ecosystem makes the right data available to the right people at the right time across products and organizations in a way that can be relied upon and meaningfully used by recipients,” said the ONC report. “All individuals, their families, and care providers should be able to send, receive, find, and use health information in a manner that is appropriate, secure, timely, and reliable.”

Although many providers currently capture patient data, the siloed nature of the national health system makes it difficult and risky to effectively share that information. To shift this existing structure, ONC said it plans to take calculated steps toward improvement. They will start by establishing standards that will ensure common “data vocabulary and provenance,” as well as institute systems that can safely share or transport data. Within 3 years of implementation, ONC officials hope to have developed an interoperable system that will make health information exchange possible across different vendor platforms.

The plan also has a “6-year agenda” that includes changes to support “enhanced interoperability.” Remote monitoring, multipayer claims databases, clinical data registries, and other data aggregators would enable institutions such as schools or prisons to share health information. By year 10, ONC said that patients may be able to manage their own healthcare information from personal devices such as their mobile phones. They maintain that the decade-long process is necessary if the plan is to be executed correctly.

“It will take time to build a fully interoperable infrastructure of coordinated care and communication across healthcare providers, patients, and public health entities that improves healthcare quality, lowers healthcare costs, and improves population health,” the report said. “No 1 person, organization, or government agency alone can realize this vision of an interconnected health system.”

The CommonWell Health Alliance, a not-for-profit trade organization that supports interoperable health IT, is just 1 group encouraging the use of software that allows providers to share patient data. Since the launch of the group’s EHR exchange program—which includes members like Cerner, McKesson, Allscripts, athenahealth, and Greenway—more than 10,000 patients have consented to participation. Palmetto Health, a coordinated care provider in South Carolina that uses Cerner’s EHR software, was able to identify patients who were coming to their facility for surgery from an unaffiliated practice near their location that uses athenahealth.

“It allows for that seamless flow of information for the care of patients,” said Tripp Jennings, medical informatics officer at Palmetto Health.

Around the Web

ONC Unveils 10-Year Plan for Healthcare Interoperability [Fierce HealthIT]

Connecting Health and Care for the Nation [ONC]

Group Of Electronic Health Record Vendors To Become Officially Interoperable [Forbes]