Next Steps at ONC
By Helen Figge
The new leader, Karen DeSalvo, MD, has been appointed at ONC. It is anticipated that ONC is set to continue the creation of an interoperable, private, and secure nationwide health information system with the ultimate goal of supporting widespread distribution of data. More importantly, widespread implementation of Meaningful Use of healthcare technology.
Many, however, still struggle to gauge what ultimately will be developed to facilitate the electronic exchange of health information. How will we launch the system, maintaining high quality along with security so that patient records are impenetrable to tampering?
The nirvana of the ONC program was to improve healthcare delivery alongside reducing healthcare costs. But with uncertainty of where Obamacare eventually will land, and with all the other moving pieces like ICD-10, additional worries play into the overall scheme of just what the final healthcare landscape will look like. Not only to the healthcare providers, but to the consumer of healthcare, like you and me.
Besides the obvious conversations that we all hear centered around Meaningful Use, ONC has many opportunities to improve healthcare globally, most notably stressing and promoting early detection, prevention, and management of chronic diseases, which account for most of the healthcare expenditures we see today.
As we continue to see ONC evolve, let’s hope that the emphasis will not only zero in on Meaningful Use, but also be energized for promoting such things as staying well through good health habits – wellness – in the various stages of our life cycles. Regardless of the technologies in play or the governmental regulations already set in motion, the key to the healthcare game is for consumers to stay healthier longer and be rewarded for maintaining a healthy state versus dealing with the aftermath of illness.
This plays well into the ONC mission of eliminating health disparities among different populations and ensuring best practices regardless of geographic confines as well. There is a lot on the ONC table to continue to execute. Hopefully ONC will also affirm the need to have promotional campaigns for promoting early detection and prevention more effectively in the marketplace. This seems still to be void or at least not very noticeable from some vantage points.
Let’s not forget the ONC charge of establishing a governance for the Nationwide Health Information Network (now coined the eHealth Exchange), which when successfully executed, would be a Web-services based series of specifications designed to securely exchange healthcare related data.
Independent of the leaders named at ONC, the arduous task of moving healthcare to the next level of quality will be at the forefront. A big sigh and a long pause will be needed to start the conversations with enthusiasm for sure, but in the end it will be just another day in the life of a CIO and the technology teams along with all of the healthcare providers in this era of Obamacare.
Helen Figge, CPHIMS, FHIMSS is is VP of clinical integration for Alere ACS.