U.S. HHS’ ONC Seeks to Drive Health IT Enablement of Real-World Research

U.S. HHS’ ONC Seeks to Drive Health IT Enablement of Real-World Research

The Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT is planning to align clinician and research technology needs, outlining nine ways to better enable IT-based research advances. Titled ONC’s National Health IT priorities for Research: A Policy and Development Agenda, developed in collaboration involving healthcare system participating sharing and incorporating input from a myriad of perspectives.

Who is ONC?

The Office of the National Coordinator for Health information Technology (ONC) is a staff division of the Office of the Secretary within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. ONC leads national health IT efforts, charged as the principal federal entity to coordinate nationwide efforts to implement and use the most advanced health information technology and the electronic of health information. The position was created on April 27, 2004 by President George W. Bush via Executive Order 13335. Congress later mandated ONC in the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act provisions of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 under the Obama Administration. Under the HITECH Act ONC is charged with building an interoperable, private and secure nationwide health information system and supporting the widespread, meaningful use of health information technology.

Supporting the Alignment of the Clinic and Research

With ubiquitous electronic health records, big data and powerful, economic cloud computing availability brings the research world to the era of real-world research. As Mike Miliard writes for HealthcareITNews, electronic health records and consumer electronics as have produced “troves digitized health data” and with it “tremendous opportunity for biomedical and health services researchers.” But he notes that the field hasn’t progressed as it should—not exploiting the incredible opportunity before the industry. Milliard notes that the ONC has identified a fundamental hinderance: challenges with both the “data and health IT infrastructure.”

Advancing Biomedical and Health Services Research

ONC appears serious about embracing and enabling technology to fundamentally drive transformation in support of advancing biomedical and health services with three objectives, reports Mr. Miliard, including: 1) describe and detail an ideal health information ecosystem to better support healthcare research; 2) identify stakeholders’ widely-varying priorities for addressing current technology challenges; and 3) put forth policy and development plans to build a data infrastructure that supports scientific discovery. These objectives are guided by two ONC goals, including “1) leveraging high-quality electronic health and 2) advance health IT infrastructure to support research.”

Follow up and Comment on Challenges

Follow the link to the actual ONC report or to Mr. Miliard’s nice summary.  

Note that a fundamental challenge facing ONC and various health systems, from public to private, face profound problems of politic, organizational priority, compliance, security and personal health data protection and a multitude of other factors. The obstacles to full throttle real-world research must overcome people, organization, legal and compliance factors, process obstacles and more.


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