I consider myself a semi-authority on makeovers based on my (closet) addiction to reality TV shows. Before you judge, please know that I only watch the shows focused on transforming old and tired houses/wardrobes/spouses/bodies to new and improved versions that are the envy of every viewer. Thus it was with a most critical eye that I read the ONCs recently released 2015-2020 Federal Health IT Strategic Plan, which outlines the federal government’s priorities for advancing health IT over the next five years.
The ONC has, of course, been under a bit of fire as of late. Mounting criticism of the Meaningful Use program, the departure of key ONC leaders, and lagging Stage 2 attestation figures have led many to question the ONC’s long term viability. As soon as I heard about the latest strategic plan, I wondered if it might be the script for Extreme Makeover: ONC Edition.
But first, a bit of background. The strategic plan is an update to the version issued in 2011 which focused heavily on the implementation of the HITECH Act and the Meaningful Use program. Obviously the health IT landscape has changed considerably since then. Most notably EHR adoption has grown dramatically and almost 410,000 eligible hospitals and professionals are now participating in EHR incentive programs.
The new plan, which was developed with input from over 35 federal entities, includes five goals:
- Expand adoption of health IT
- Advance secure and interoperable health information
- Strengthen healthcare delivery
- Advance the health and well-being of individuals and communities
- Advance research, scientific knowledge, and innovation
All and all the ONC seems on target with its 28-page plan that includes a number of topics that were barely on the HIT radar five years ago, including telehealth and mobile health applications by consumers. Interestingly, unlike the earlier strategic plan, Meaningful Use is only mentioned a few times. Could that be because a) the Meaningful Use train has left the station and will keeping rolling along regardless of any new initiatives; b) the Meaningful Use of EMR was just the first step in the bigger plan for connectivity and we’re now moving to the next level; c) the ONC must expand its priorities beyond Meaningful Use or risk extinction; or, d) all of the above?
The right answer is probably “d.” The Meaningful Use program is scheduled to continue through 2021 and despite the criticisms, the majority of providers and EMR vendors are entrenched in the process and committed to completing the process. In addition, the updated plan “aims to expand health IT adoption and use efforts across the continuum” to include providers ineligible to participation in the current EHR incentive programs. In other words, the plan emphasizes HIT adoption for all, and not just those participating in the Meaningful Use program.
In 2004, President Bush called for the widespread use of EHRs within 10 years and established the ONC to support technology adoption. The agency has been largely successful in achieving its initial goals and the latest strategic plan appropriately recognizes that it’s time to build on the solid foundation. National Coordinator Karen DeSalvo introduced the plan by saying that while the federal government “will continue to work towards more widespread adoption of health IT, efforts will begin to include new sources of information and ways to disseminate knowledge quickly, securely, and efficiently.”
So, is an Extreme Makeover in the works for the ONC? Will stakeholders support the latest goals? Will the agency run out of funding before accomplishing its objectives? Will the ONC be able to attract and retain the quality leaders it requires? Does anyone besides me think this would make a great reality TV show?
Michelle Ronan Noteboom
Latest posts by Michelle Ronan Noteboom (see all)
- Health IT and the parallels of presidential politics - March 29, 2016
- Health IT Rantings and Ratings - February 16, 2016
- Transparency in healthcare: it’s time - February 2, 2016