ONC blogs give a glimpse of expanded support for federal programs

New initiatives show the potential for using EHR data and easier information exchange to bring improvements to care and aid health initiatives.

This article is part of the January 2023 COVERstory.

The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology has seen a recent expansion in its role as it interacts with several federal agencies on key health-related initiatives. 

A wide swath of agencies are looking to work with ONC to better leverage data and capabilities in electronic health records. The impetus for this growth is a policy implemented this summer by Xavier Becerra, secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, which provides direct ONC assistance to HHS agencies, among other provisions. 

This specific expansion was outlined in an August blog written by Micky Tripathi and Steven Posnack. The directive gives ONC more stature and recognition, while enabling it to provide support for health-related initiatives that can benefit from data in electronic health records. 

Indeed, ONC’s Health IT Buzz blog has provided weekly updates on initiatives that illustrate its growing role to promulgate the use of standards, expand initiatives to enable better care, and fulfill administration objectives to improve health equity.

Here, we highlight a sampling of recent blogs from the site, illustrating ONC’s growing role in federal and standards initiatives:

Not-So-Hidden Gems in the 21st Century Cures Act Final Rule: Get to Know the Conditions of Certification 

The information blocking regulations are important, but the 21st Century Cures Act (Cures Act) and ONC’s implementing regulations have several impactful provisions. In particular, certain changes to the ONC Health IT Certification Program may seem like “more of the same” for health IT developers, but in reality, they are really important and beneficial to clinicians, researchers and the public alike. 

Moving Standards to Support SDOH Data Capture from the Sandbox to Production 

ONC is working with HL7 and with a wide range of partners from healthcare, government (federal and states), community-based organizations, developers, providers and industry stakeholders to launch a national Gravity Project Pilots Affinity Group. This new group will pilot the SDOH Clinical Care FHIR Implementation Guide (SDOH CC IG) as a way to advance the development and adoption of social determinants of health (SDOH) standards. 

Interoperability in Action: ONC Informs CMS Ruling on Hospital Measures for Public Health and Health Equity Reporting 

This is the second blog post in a two-part series that examines how policies finalized by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) in the 2023 Inpatient Prospective Payment System (IPPS) final rule are advancing the use of interoperable health IT. Previously, the first blog looked at a new measure under CMS’s Promoting Interoperability Program that rewards hospitals for exchanging information under the Trusted Exchange Framework and Common Agreement, or TEFCA. 

ONC and CDC Working Together to Strengthen Public Health Systems, Tools, and Practices that Keep Us Safe 

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, public health staff have worked tirelessly to make sense of the extraordinary volumes of data coming at them at different times and in different ways. Because much of this information is unstructured or non-standardized, epidemiologists, scientists and others must first bring these data into alignment before the real work can begin. The more differences there are in the data, the more painstaking the is work for people on the frontlines trying to put the pieces together fast. It is an effort that ONC and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are working together to fix. 

ONC and HRSA launch USCDI+ Initiative to support UDS Modernization 

Earlier this year, ONC launched the USCDI+ initiative to support the identification and establishment of domain or program-specific datasets that will operate as extensions to the existing United States Core Data for Interoperability (USCDI). Recently, colleagues at the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) saw an opportunity to leverage USCDI+, and a new USCDI+ collaboration has been launched to support HRSA’s Uniform Data System (UDS) reporting through the UDS Modernization Initiative. ONC and HRSA are working together to align the UDS with interoperability standards and transition to patient-level reporting requirements with USCDI and other quality reporting efforts. We are also establishing a strategic direction aligned with ONC’s Cures Act Final Rule for FHIR-based exchange to better support the needs of health centers. 

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