HHS panel to give fresh spin to federal health IT strategy

The update will address how health IT will be used to reduce errors and improve the quality of care

A federal advisory panel to the Health and Human Services Department began considering a framework today to update the Federal Health Information Technology Strategic Plan guiding adoption of electronic health records. The updated plan is expected to be released by October.

HHS initially created a strategic plan for health IT in June 2008 to cover the period through 2012. Under the economic stimulus law, HHS’ Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT must update that plan.

The Strategic Planning Workgroup began considering a nine-page framework in a meeting today. The workgroup will present its recommendations in the next several months to the HHS Health IT Policy Committee, which will forward recommendations by May to the HHS health IT national coordinator, who will release the updated plan by October, according to a schedule included in the draft update.

By law, the updated plan must include a description of how policy developments will be coordinated among HHS officials, the Health IT Policy Committee and other committees and entities. It also must include benchmarks for the electronic exchange of health information, utilization of electronic health records and incorporation of security and privacy technologies, among other factors.

The updated strategy must show how health IT will be used to improve care quality, reduce errors, improve public health and address special needs.

The framework under consideration today describes a vision of health IT advancing a “learning health system that is patient-centered and uses information to continuously improve health and health care of individuals and the population," said HHS Health IT National Coordinator Dr. David Blumenthal, speaking at a conference last month

The document also outlines principles, strategies and objectives with regard to four themes: meaningful use of health IT, policy and technical infrastructure; privacy and security; and creation of a learning health system through effective use of Health IT.

The HHS on Dec. 30, 2009, released its notice of proposed rulemaking for meaningful use of health IT. The regulation outlines how doctors and hospitals can qualify for $17 billion in incentive payments by becoming meaningful users of digital health records.

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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