HHS Unveils Broad Health IT Goals

The US Department of Health and Human Services says it wants to make electronic health records more prominent and more user friendly, but the agency won't say specifically how they'll achieve those goals until next year.

The federal government says it wants to improve the interoperability of health information technology.

The US Department of Health and Human Services this week issued its Federal Health IT Strategic Plan for 2015-2020. The plan serves as a broad outline of the agency’s goals. A more concrete interoperability strategy will come next year, when HHS publishes its Nationwide Interoperability Roadmap.

Members of the public now have 60 days to provide comment on the plan.

The plan has 5 goals. The first 2 goals focus on the technology: increasing adoption of Electronic Health Records (EHRs) and improving the interoperability of the software in a secure manner.

The latter 3 goals focus on wider healthcare aims, such as increasing the quality of care, increasing the health of the population, and furthering medical research.

“The 2015 Strategic Plan provides the federal government a strategy to move beyond healthcare to improve health, use health IT beyond EHRs, and use policy and incentive levers beyond the incentive programs,” said Karen DeSalvo, MD, national coordination for health IT and acting assistant HHS secretary for health.

HHS says 93% of eligible hospitals and 76% of eligible physicians and professionals are taking part in the first phase of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid’s EHR incentive program.

However, many early adopters say their EHR systems come with a range of problems, such as difficulty sharing data and a lack of similarity between the data collection and presentation in traditional paper records and the data collection and presentation of electronic records.

The full plan can be found online. The public comment period ends Feb. 6, 2015.