ONC funding slashed by $17M in FY 2020 under WH budget

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The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology has a lot on its plate in Fiscal Year 2020, but the agency may have to do more with less.

The Trump administration on Monday released the President’s FY 2020 budget request for the Department of Health and Human Services, which includes a total of $43 million for ONC—a reduction of $17 million from FY 2019.

“In FY 2020, ONC will continue to reduce operational and administrative costs in information technology, space, staff training and agency travel,” states the HHS justification. “ONC will continue to seek additional administrative and operational efficiencies.”

At the same time, HHS contends that the FY 2020 budget “prioritizes policy and rulemaking activities, standards development and implementation and electronic health record certification efforts to fulfill ONC’s commitment to an interoperable health IT system.”

Specifically, ONC’s FY 2020 priorities include:

  • Developing data standards and the implementation of a trusted exchange framework and common agreement across health information networks.
  • Focusing standards work on application programming interface standards, demonstration projects and pilots, implementation testing and collaborating with industry stakeholders.
  • Working with CMS and healthcare stakeholders to identify and implement efforts to reduce provider burden from health IT.
  • Advancing nationwide health IT interoperability through implementation of the Cures Act, which directs ONC to continue its work to combat information blocking by aggressively implement Certification Program rules that prohibit such conduct.
  • Working with HHS partners to improve opioid prescribing practices, inform clinical practice, protect patients at risk and reduce illegal use of prescription medications through health, as well as advancing the accessibility and interoperability of Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs.

In related news, the President’s FY 2020 budget request also includes $1.6 billion—$496 million above FY 2019—for the Department of Veterans Affairs’ EHR Modernization Program.

“The increase will support ongoing activities at the three initial deployment sites and the deployment to further sites, as well as additional site assessments,” according to the VA.

The “go-live” for the initial operating capability sites for the VA’s new Cerner system is slated for March 2020.

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