With interoperability challenges continuing to plague the healthcare industry and impatience growing among consumers and providers, the eHealth Initiative on Thursday announced the first set of priorities for its 2020 Roadmap designed to “enable coordinated efforts by public and private sector organizations to transform care delivery through data exchange and health information technology.”

The roadmap focuses on three priorities: interoperability, business and clinical motivators, and data access and use. Each focus area includes a set of short-term goals for collaborative action. Among the goals are recommendations for development and testing of data standards in the private sector “rather than mandating untested tools” and “developing incentives in the private sector to move the market rather than looking to the government for funding,” as well as “having vendors work together to harmonize tools and applications so that patients can move information from place to place.”

While the government “has been and will always be a critical part of the conversation and an engine to move things forward, the private sector really needs to lead the way in solving many of these problems,” Jennifer Covich Bordenick, CEO of the eHealth Initiative, told a Nov. 13 media briefing.

“Consumers and providers see technology work in other areas like banking, travel, and service industries and they don’t understand why it doesn’t work in healthcare,” said Bordenick. “We’ve seen a lot of government action—the passage of the HITECH Act and the Affordable Care Act. A tremendous amount of money, time and resources has been invested in technology efforts. Despite all this, we are still not where we want to be and many stakeholder groups in the private sector have been questioning the direction of policy and practice and are raising concerns about the slow pace of improving care and achieving cost reductions.”

According to Bordenick, as a “neutral, non-partisan” stakeholder coalition, eHealth Initiative is in a “very unique position” to spearhead the effort to figure out how health IT can improve the quality, safety and efficiency of healthcare. She described the organization’s roadmap as a “public-private collaborative” to provide a “shared vision to transform our healthcare system by the year 2020.”

The 24-page document is the result of input from more than 150 companies and 250 individuals gathered over the past six months through roundtables, surveys, and webinars, as well as the convening of three separate workgroups focused on interoperability, business and clinical motivators, and data access and use. “People have come together because there’s a void and there’s government gridlock,” said Bordenick. However, she warned that “if you are expecting to find a prescriptive list of answers to all the mindboggling interoperability dilemmas, you will be greatly disappointed,” emphasizing that the eHealth Initiative’s 2020 Roadmap is “not a set of answers but rather a framework for discussion about core technology issues.”

The recommendations released yesterday are only the first in a series of releases, Bordenick said, and the eHealth Initiative expects to release findings related to several areas of consensus in the spring of 2015. “Consensus was not reached in many areas and further work is needed,” she concluded. “In 2015, eHealth Initiative will launch a series of ‘Consensus Groups’ to dive deeper into these complex areas.”

The organization also is working with the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT as it develops a 10-year interoperability roadmap that is due to be released for public comment in January 2015. “We will work with [ONC] as they map out their roadmap for the public sector. Our intention is to marry those two efforts at some point next year,” Bordenick said.

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