HHS releases health IT strategic plan through 2015

The Health and Human Services Department has published its vision of how health information technology used by doctors and hospitals will improve care and health and lower costs.

The Health and Human Services Department has released its new strategic plan for health IT that projects a transformed health system by 2015.

The HHS said in the Federal Health IT Strategic Plan 2011-2015  released Sept. 12 that collection, sharing and analysis of health data on a broad basis will improve care and reduce costs.


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The plan lays out five goals, aligning with programs that have been led by the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT under the 2009 economic stimulus law and the 2010 health care reform law.

Under the stimulus law, the national coordinator was allocated up to $20 billion for distribution to hospitals and doctors that purchase new digital health record systems and demonstrate use of those systems for collection and sharing patient data, while maintaining privacy and security. The health reform law gave additional support to health IT adoption and use in a variety of forms.

The centerpiece of the health IT strategy, and its first goal, is to complete the processes begun under those two laws to spur widespread adoption and use of health IT patient record systems, along with corresponding data collection efforts and data sharing and exchange, by 2015.

As a second goal, HHS intends to demonstrate that the adoption and use of digital record systems has been effective in improving care and population health and in reducing costs.

Additional goals are to maintain privacy and security of the records to inspire confidence in health IT, empower individuals with health IT and build a “learning” health care system in which clinical data can be aggregated and analyzed for up-to-date information and research.

For health IT to be successful, individuals must trust the system. The department has set up a workgroup to explore a broader range of privacy and security policies that may be needed for the exchange of patient health data, according to an entry in the national health IT coordinator’s Health Buzz Blog. The process is being guided by the Nationwide Privacy and Security Framework for Electronic exchange of Individually Identifiable Health Information. One of the possibilities being discussed is whether patients should be able to give consent for a subset of their personal records rather than the entire record.

To help people to access and use their health information, the plan mentions several initiatives to support programs such as personal health records, which are digital patient records available to patients, and mobile health, which is using mobile devices.

“The technologies collectively known as health information technology share a common attribute: they enable the secure collection and exchange of vast amounts of health data about individuals,” the plan stated. “The collection and movement of this data will power the health care of the future. Health IT has the potential to empower individuals and increase transparency; enhance the ability to study care delivery and payment systems; and ultimately achieve improvements in care, efficiency, and population health.”

The health IT technologies include electronic health records, personal health records, telehealth devices, remote monitoring and mobile health applications. In 2010, only about 25 percent of doctors and 15 percent of hospitals used digital health record systems.

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