All the Tools in the Toolbox: How ONC Delivered Value In 2012

A recent story characterized the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC) as both “the federal office in charge of a massive rollout of electronic health records” as well as “an office whose primary role has been cheerleader” for health information technology. Well, which is it?

To be fair, since David Brailer’s time, the National Coordinator for Health IT has had two distinct roles:

  1. Representative and giver-of-cheer to a diverse community of technology developers and implementers, patient advocates and entrepreneurs, policymakers, and clinicians who are all bound together by their conviction that health and health care can be made better through the use of information technology
  2. Director of a federal agency with certain authorities, duties and resources—and a team of passionate and dedicated public servants.

Today, as in last year’s New Year blog post, I will share with you a few of the ways—that go beyond cheerleading—in which ONC has interacted with you to meet its mission and mandate over the past year.


ONC as a Regulator

Together with our partners at the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), we define the policies and issue the rules that govern:

  • Certified Electronic Health Records (EHRs),
  • Meaningful use, and
  • Billions of dollars in health IT incentives.

Stage 1 is off to a terrific start with 84% of eligible hospitals registered and 68% paid, and 64% of eligible providers registered and 33% paid to date.

The final rules released in August for Stage 2 of Meaningful Use advance patient safety, population health, and patient engagement, but most critically make possible a giant leap for secure interoperability and exchange. Through our terrific Federal Advisory Committees—which are among the most open and accessible in the federal government—we listen to you, synthesize the essence of your concerns/input/advice, and come up with practical solutions to achieve the most meaningful use of Meaningful Use.

Technical Assistance & Cooperative Agreements

The Regional Extension Centers (RECs) continue their work to support primary care providers operating in small or medically underserved settings to implement EHR systems and achieve Meaningful Use. To date, the RECs have worked with 132,842 primary care providers in more than 31,000 different practices, which represents approximately 42% of all the primary care providers in the United States.

The RECs have also worked with over 80% of all the federally qualified health centers and over 70% of the nation’s critical access hospitals. More than 100,000 of these providers are now live on an EHR system and nearly 40,000 have achieved Meaningful Use.

Targeted Investments