Karen DeSalvo, M.D., M.P.H., M.Sc., the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, discusses her view of the health information technology landscape. She outlines an agenda for her office that includes incentivizing interoperability, “standardizing standards,” and establishing shared expectations and actions around data security and privacy. This post, which also appears on Health Affairs Blog, is based on Dr. DeSalvo’s presentation at the Health Information and Management Systems Society 2015 annual conference last week.

I am optimistic about the bright future we have to leverage health information technology to enable better health for everyone in this country.

One year ago, we called upon the health IT community to move beyond adoption and focus on interoperability, on unlocking the data, so it can be put to the many important uses demanded by consumers, doctors, hospitals, payers, and others who are part of the learning health system.

ONC spent the year listening to the health IT community to understand the challenges and opportunities and developing strategic roadmaps to guide our way. Our goal was to evolve to be best able to lead where appropriate, and partner wherever possible, as we all shift the national strategic focus towards interoperability. I hope you all have felt that shift.

Listening To Our Partners
While developing the new strategic focus and plans, my team and I have also worked with and listened to our federal partners and with the states.

I personally had the chance to host or participate in nearly two dozen listening sessions across the country. In those sessions I was able to hear from people on the front lines about what matters most to them. I became increasingly optimistic as I heard how committed people were to seeing that we would leverage health IT to the advancement of everyone’s health.

These listening sessions also reminded me that we would need to meet communities where they are. In Alabama, adoption is still being debated, and, like many communities in this nation, they have challenges like lack of broadband access for rural communities. In New Jersey, I heard that close proximity of major metropolitan areas from bordering states brought to light the issue of differing state privacy laws as a barrier to appropriate data flow.

In the Silicon Valley, the entrepreneurial community is moving past the notion of an electronic health record and is thinking about the next phase: person centered health records and the internet of things. In Minnesota, a history of collaboration showed me that when we let go of our own interests, communities move further when they work together instead of against each other, and we can put priorities like the public’s health at the top of the agenda.

We also had the opportunity to participate in a series of Robert Wood Johnson Foundation hosted listening sessions as part of their Data for Health initiative. Their convenings brought to the table community-based organizations and members whose voice is not as …read more

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