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Interoperability Top Priority of Federal HIT Strategic Plan

The 2015-2020 Federal Health IT Strategic Plan just released by the Office of the National Coordinator for HIT is about “collecting, sharing, and using electronic health information,” according to Seth Pazinski, director of ONC’s Office of Planning, Evaluation, and Analysis.

Pazinski told a Dec. 9 meeting of the Health IT Policy Committee that the draft five-year plan outlines the federal government’s many HIT priorities established by 35 participating agencies “but there was a coming together around interoperability as a top focus and priority.”

Adopting the IEEE definition of interoperability—the ability of two or more systems or components to exchange information and to use the information that has been exchanged—the plan argues that “interoperable health information and health IT solutions will lead to more efficient and effective health systems, better clinical decision support, scientific advancement, and a continuously learning health system.”

When it comes to sharing electronic health information, the plan has three objectives: enabling individuals, providers, and public health entities to securely send, receive, find, and use electronic health information; identifying, prioritizing, and advancing technical standards to support secure and interoperable health information; and protecting the privacy and security of health information.

“The structure of this is very similar to what ONC reflected in the interoperability vision paper,” Pazinski says. “So, it incorporates those key building blocks related to standards, certification, governance, and   what are the different business and regulatory drivers, as well as privacy and security.”

In a Dec. 8 briefing, National Coordinator for Health IT Karen DeSalvo, M.D., said the Federal HIT Strategic Plan is meant to set the “context and framing” for ONC’s interoperability roadmap—slated for public release in early 2015—which will lay out how the federal government and private sector will approach sharing health information. As the document states: “Interoperability is a crosscutting component of this plan, and implementation of the roadmap will be necessary to advance the plan’s goals.”

The public has until Feb. 6, 2015 to comment on the draft plan. A final plan will be released sometime next year.

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