More changes to health information privacy rules, and a stronger push for electronic health records interoperability, could be forthcoming under the final Federal Health I.T. Strategic Plan for the next five years from Health and Human Services' Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology.

ONC released a draft plan for comment in May. While the final plan is out, the agency stresses it a "living document" that will be updated as warranted.

Under the final plan, HHS has begun a process of exploring broader privacy and security policies that may be necessary to ensure trust in health information exchange. "One of the major areas being addressed through this process is pursing policy changes that would afford individuals more meaningful choice as to whether their information may be exchanged electronically," according to the plan. "ONC is also assessing technical solutions that could support more granular patient choice and data segmentation that could support a patient's choice to share only certain parts of their record during information exchange."

HHS in the plan reaffirms support for research at the National Institute of Standards and Technology to refine usability testing for electronic health records. The tests would use protocols targeting improved safety and efficiency. "This work will occur in a transparent process, engaging EHR developers, researchers and other stakeholders," according to the strategic plan. "We will also work on greater transparency and better guidance for EHR users and purchasers with regard to EHR usability."

Further, ONC will study ways to improve the ability of providers to change EHR products to better support their needs by improving data portability. "Reducing the cost associated with switching EHR products while increasing data fluidity and choice can help drive market competition to improve the usability of EHR products."

Another component of the strategic plan includes the launching this month of a national campaign to increase consumer awareness of the transition to EHRs, how to access their health information, using I.T. to better manage health, and rights to access and protect their health information.

ONC in the plan also reiterates its support of a recommendation from the HIT Policy Committee to extend by one year Stage 1 of EHR meaningful use for providers attesting in 2011, and notes it has made the recommendation to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. The strategic plan is available here.

 

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