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ONC’s Tripathi and Posnack blog on leveraging EHR-based data to support HHS programs

Micky Tripathi, Ph.D., National Coordinator for Health Informatics, and Steven Posnack, Deputy National Coordinator for Health Informatics, posted a blog Aug. 5 on the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Informatics website. IT for Health (ONC), in which they touted progress towards aligning health IT-related activities in support of health IT and interoperability goals, such as the led Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra. The two ONC officials believe that Secretary Becerra’s call for the integration of standard health IT requirements language into HHS funding programs, contracts, and policies will help move the health care system forward. , while providing ONC assistance to HHS agencies to advance standardization.

Writing in the blog, titled “E Pluribus Unum,” Tripathi and Posnack write that: “As our nation transitions to a digital health system, our stakeholders are discovering new opportunities for using health information technologies to advance health care delivery, public health and research to improve people’s lives. The federal government is no exception in this regard; Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) agencies are beginning to leverage the data and capabilities available through electronic health records for a wide range of federal activities and programs, including security and surveillance of products, real-world data, and real-world evidence for regulatory approvals, research, pandemic response, and social service integration, to name a few.

Indeed, Tripathi and Posnack write, “While this is an exciting development for HHS as a whole, it requires more proactive alignment and coordination of health IT activities across the department to ensure that we operate as efficiently and cohesively as possible. To that end, Secretary Becerra has implemented a department-wide management policy directing the ONC to engage with HHS agencies to align and coordinate health informatics-related activities across the organization. supporting HHS health informatics and interoperability goals. Specifically, the Secretary directed the ONC to establish and oversee a consistent HHS-wide approach to: 1) incorporate the standard language of healthcare IT requirements into all HHS programs, contracts, and policies; applicable funding from HHS; and 2) provide direct ONC assistance to HHS agencies to maximize the use of HHS-approved standards and authorities (such as Section 3004 of the Public Health Services Act) in their agency programs.

In addition, ONC senior leaders say, “While this will not happen overnight, we expect to see greater consistency in health IT activities across HHS over time, which which should result in lower cost and more efficient agency programs, more sharing of data and health IT infrastructure across programs and agencies, and less burden on health care providers, technology developers and other stakeholders who collaborate with multiple HHS agencies Maximizing the federal government’s use of scalable, non-proprietary, open industry standards and approaches, such as US Core APIs Data for Interoperability (USCDI) and FHIR, as required by the 21st Century Cures Act, will multiply the impact of departmental regulations and purchasing power to further health informatics goals and HHS Interoperability. He will also directly support the Biden-Harris administration’s top priorities for health equity, federal customer experience and service delivery, and advocacy for competition. ONC is already working collaboratively with our partner federal agencies, and we are excited to be able to better support our sister HHS agencies and ensure that HHS is more than the sum of its parts.