Today marks the start of National Health IT Week, Sept. 15-19, with events and activities in Washington, D.C. and around the country designed to bring attention to the value of health information technology.

The Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT will kick off the week with its annual Consumer Health IT Summit, a day-long event to highlight public and private sector efforts to “advance patient engagement by empowering people with their digital health data and technology," according to ONC. This is the ninth year that National Health IT Week has been held as “an opportunity for the health IT community to come together under one umbrella to raise awareness of the cost savings and improved healthcare delivery benefits of health IT.”

According to organizers, this year more than 425 partners including healthcare providers, associations and non-profit organizations, state and regional extension centers, vendors, and colleges and universities will be participating. The College of Healthcare Information Management Executives, the Institute for e-Health Policy, and HIMSS are co-sponsors of National Health IT Week.

As part of the week-long events, the HIMSS Policy Summit will be held Sept. 17-18 in Washington and will include the organization’s “Congressional Asks” event that includes formal requests to Congress to accomplish specific goals advancing health IT. Tom Leary, vice president of government relations at HIMSS, says the requests of Congress include:

* To minimize disruption of healthcare to patients and avoid an undue burden on providers, Congress should require the Secretary of HHS to publish a review, evaluation, and recommendations on the five-year roadmap of all mandated, HHS-administered health IT requirements and program changes affecting patients and the operations of providers, payers, and/or health IT vendors.

* To expand access to quality care, help control costs, enhance secure interoperability of health information, and improve quality for rural and underserved populations, Congress should pass legislation that enables the nationwide realization of the full benefits of telehealth services.

* Congress should fund the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT in Fiscal Year 2015 at sufficient levels requested in the Administration’s FY 2015 Budget Request.

The Obama administration’s FY15 budget request to Congress included $75 million for ONC, $14 million more than was allotted in FY14. “The budget builds upon recent nationwide investment to promote adoption of electronic health records and build secure health information exchange capabilities among providers, patients, and payers,” according to HIMSS. “It also places greater emphasis on the role of secure, interoperable health information technology in ensuring patient safety and quality, and on the current congressionally-authorized mission of the ONC to assist federal agencies in adopting health IT policies supporting new payment models.”

National Coordinator for Health IT Karen DeSalvo, M.D., is the opening keynote speaker at the HIMSS Policy Summit. Following that event, attendees will be transported to Capitol Hill for pre-scheduled congressional office visits to lobby members of Congress and their staffs to, among other things, fully fund ONC’s FY15 budget request.

“As the nation enters the fourth year and Stage 2 (of three stages) of the Meaningful Use Program, we are at a critical juncture in using IT to improve patient care outcomes via nationwide adoption of EHRs and creating the ability to exchange health information privately and securely,” HIMSS argues. "We must maintain the momentum that has been achieved and continue to address critical issues to realize the benefits of the substantial public and private investment that has been made in positively transforming America’s healthcare delivery system through IT.”

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