Big Bucks for ONC in President's FY16 Budget Request

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The Office of the National Coordinator for HIT would get a huge funding increase in fiscal year 2016 under the federal government budget request that President Obama sent to Congress on Feb. 2.

Under the proposal, ONC would get $92 million in FY 16, compared with $60 million this year and in 2014. It should be noted that the Obama Administration over the years has regularly requested sizable increases for ONC, and generally hasn't gotten them.

A major focus of the proposed big boost in spending is to support accelerated improvements in health information technology interoperabilty, which in turn would further care transformation, according to the Administration.

Initiatives to be funded under the request include Stage 3 of the electronic health records program, strategic investments to support development and testing of interoperability standards and the new Interoperability Roadmap, IT support for the newly proposed Precision Medicine Initative, and $5 millon to improve the integration of prescription drug monitoring programs, particularly opiates, by leveraging health IT.

“The Budget increases support to advance interoperable health IT as part of delivery system reform while protecting patient privacy,” states the administration’s request, while supporting ONC in “developing standards and consensus around policies that will help consumers and providers access electronic health information when and where they need it to make health care decisions, including development of interoperable mobile tools to help consumers use their health information effectively.”

At the ONC Annual Meeting held Monday in Washington, National Coordinator for Health IT Karen DeSalvo, M.D., told the audience that Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell is committed to this “big push” in interoperability.   

President Obama’s FY16 budget also seeks to expand Medicare data sharing “with qualified entities, which will enable additional third party analysis of data, and may lead to more transparent public discussion of care practice improvement in healthcare quality and efficiency, and/or reduce fraud, waste, and abuse in the Medicare program.”

The big ticket item in the proposed Health and Human Services budget is President Obama’s $215 million Precision Medicine Initiative.

Under the newly announced research effort, $200 million would go to the National Institutes of Health for the launch of a national cohort of more than a million Americans that NIH wants to volunteer to share their genetic information. The health data will be used to expand current cancer genomics research and to initiate new studies on how a tumor’s DNA can inform prognosis and treatment choices for patients.

As part of the initiative, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration will receive $10 million to “modernize the regulatory framework to aid the development and use of molecular diagnostics in precision medicine,” while ONC would spend $5 million in FY16 to help develop technology and define standards and certification criteria to enable the exchange of genomic data.

The entire FY16 budget can be found here. And, a separate HHS “Budget in Brief” document is available here.

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