June 21, 2024
HHS IT draft strategy aims to connect health data with systems

The Department of Health and Human Services is seeking comments on a draft federal health IT strategic plan.

HHS’s Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC), which released the draft Wednesday, establishes the following four goals: “promote health and wellness, enhance the delivery and experience of care, accelerate research and innovation and connect the health system with health data.” ONC said in a press release that it collaborated on the plan with 25 federal agencies that interact with health IT through purchasing, developing and regulating in order to improve health outcomes.

Among the overarching goals, the agency emphasized the need for a focus on “the policy and technology components needed to support” health IT users in connecting the system with data. 

Significantly, ONC states that the federal government plans to encourage “education, outreach and transparency” about artificial intelligence use so that both individuals and health care providers are informed about the performance and privacy practices of the technology. 

“The role of health IT and readily available access to health data have become increasingly essential to the administration of public health activities,” Jim Jirjis, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s data policy and standards division, said in the release. “CDC appreciates how the draft 2024-2030 Federal Health IT Strategic Plan addresses the need to continue to advance the nation’s public health data infrastructure, while making sure that it is benefiting the communities that need it most.”

Additionally, Meg Marshall, director of informatics regulatory affairs at the Veterans Health Administration, said in the release that the VA is also seeking comments “so that veterans too can benefit from the goals of a coordinated federal health IT strategy.”

Marshall’s  statement follows a litany of problems with the VA’s Oracle Cerner-run electronic health record, including patient safety issues with EHR pharmacy software and a watchdog report about a veteran’s death tied to a scheduling error. The system was originally launched in 2020, in an effort to “establish interoperability of records between the VA and [Department of Defense] health care systems”.” EHR was later suspended in 2023 as part of a reset, and the department noted that it was working toward holding Oracle Cerner accountable for delivering high-quality services.

Marshall said in the statement that as the VA works to modernize its EHR system, ONC’s draft plan “provides direction towards a seamless health care experience” for patients and providers. 

“Not only that, the draft Federal Health IT Strategic Plan serves as an actionable roadmap for the federal government to align and coordinate health IT efforts in a transparent and accountable manner,” Marshall said.

HHS IT draft strategy aims to connect health data with systems

Written by Caroline Nihill

Caroline Nihill is a reporter for FedScoop in Washington, D.C., covering federal IT. Her reporting has included the tracking of artificial intelligence governance from the White House and Congress, as well as modernization efforts across the federal government. Caroline was previously an editorial fellow for Scoop News Group, writing for FedScoop, StateScoop, CyberScoop, EdScoop and DefenseScoop. She earned her bachelor’s in media and journalism from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill after transferring from the University of Mississippi.

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