The Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT is developing a 10-year roadmap for achieving a nationwide interoperable HIT infrastructure, with the plan expected in January 2015.

National Coordinator for Health IT Karen DeSalvo, M.D., who spoke Monday at AHIMA’s 2014 conference in San Diego, told the audience of health information management professionals that interoperability remains a top priority for ONC.

In June, ONC released its vision for where it wants to see the country by 2024 with respect to interoperability based on five critical building blocks and a general action plan. DeSalvo said that on Oct. 15 the Health IT Policy and Standards Committees will hold a joint meeting in Washington to provide more specificity around the five building blocks outlined in ONC’s interoperability vision document.

At the Oct. 15 HIT Policy-Standards Committee meeting, DeSalvo said that ONC will present a “first iteration roadmap” for achieving interoperability. However, she emphasized that the roadmap is not intended to be an ONC or federal government plan but will be developed and finalized with input from private sector stakeholders to collectively achieve interoperability across the health IT ecosystem.

ONC is concurrently working on “refreshing” its Federal HIT Strategic Plan and will eventually “fold back” the interoperability roadmap into the overall strategic plan. ONC’s vision for achieving interoperability is a phased approach with three-, six- and 10-year agendas.

“We have decided to not wait until the Federal Health IT Strategic Plan is complete to go deep and fast in interoperability,” DeSalvo added. “We cannot wait 10 years to get this done. There is an impatience, not only in Congress and in my office, but with the average person who doesn’t understand why it is that in every other sector of their life electronic information presents itself--whether that’s banking or telecom--and they want that same experience to happen and they deserve that same experience to happen in healthcare.”

A recent report from an independent group of scientists--called JASON and funded by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality--concluded that the lack of interoperability among data resources for electronic health records is a major barrier to information exchange. The report recommended the government establish a “comprehensive, transparent and overarching software architecture” that would create an open, interoperable health data infrastructure.

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