ONC's 2015 annual meeting roundup

Interoperability, new funding top of mind
By Erin McCann
10:43 AM
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Capitol building

Some 1,200 health IT professionals packed into the Washington Hilton this week for the 2015 ONC Annual Meeting. The focus this year? Interoperability, standards and big data. 

There was interoperability talk (ONC is  calling for interoperability by 2017); there was meaningful use talk (ONC has  proposed a rule shortening the MU reporting period to 90 days); there was talk about care coordination software failing in the interoperability arena; where health IT innovation will come from (private vs. public sector); Blue Button; EHRs; standards – the whole nine yards, really. Here's a roundup of the big announcements: 

[See also:  CMS signals an ease to meaningful use reporting]

HHS will invest in more HIE grants
Feb. 3, Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell announced that $28 million in federal funding will be made available to states, territories or state-designated entities that are continuing to pursue health information exchange. The funding, officials said, will build upon the State Health Information Exchange Program, for providers who are dealing with interoperability challenges and technical difficulties related to information exchange. Up to 12 awards will be given, HHS officials said. 

More health IT cash available to providers
Also on Feb. 3, ONC Chief Karen DeSalvo, MD, announced $6.4 million in "new funding opportunities to continue to train the health IT workforce of tomorrow," in addition to an additional nearly $2 million for community health population health initiatives. The Workforce Training Program, as DeSalvo described in a blog post, will "train healthcare workers to use new health information technologies in a variety of settings," with a strong emphasis on population health, care coordination, delivery and value-based care. The Community Health Peer Learning Program, she continued, is a "collaborative learning program" that will help identify data solutions and best practices around population health. 

ONC gets more funding
Another interesting item that coincided with ONC's annual meeting? The White House 2016 budget. After  numerous departures of its team last year, together with the EHR Incentive Programs already having doled out the lion's share of its MU cash, there was talk ONC might be phased out, or at least its role would be much less dominant. But, it turns out, President Obama actually increased ONC's 2016 budget to $92 million – up from $60.3 million in 2014 – making it clear that ONC's work is far from done. ONC's FY2016 budget is being allocated "for activities in support of interoperability and meaningful use," according to an HHS budget brief. "(ONC) will expand the certification program in order to meet the requirements of meaningful use of health IT across the care continuum and including public health." As feds pointed out in the brief, the budget will support ONC's interoperability roadmap and the Federal Health IT Strategic Plan. 

The blogosphere was also abuzz with talk from ONC's meeting. Here are some of the more memorable ones: