ONC reveals final interoperability roadmap

'There is a significant focus on near-term activities'
By Tom Sullivan
04:15 PM
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Compass and map

ONC on Tuesday finalized its eagerly awaited interoperability roadmap.

"Data needs to be free," said national coordinator Karen DeSalvo, MD. "If we're going to change the care model we need an information model to support it."

That thinking is at the heart of the report, Connecting Health and Care for the Nation: A Shared Nationwide Interoperability Roadmap, which DeSalvo labeled a critical part of the broader delivery system reform effort.

The three overarching themes of the roadmap are: giving consumers the ability to access and share their health data, ceasing all intentional or inadvertent information blocking, and adopting federally-recognized national interoperability standards.

"There is a significant focus on near-term activities," said Erica Galvez, ONC's interoperability and exchange portfolio manager.

[Related: How happy are you with your EHR? View our 2015 Satisfaction Survey results.]

The final roadmap, as was the case with previous drafts, includes three, six and 10-year goals and milestones.

Between now and 2017 ONC intends to enable the sending, receiving, finding and using of health data domains with an eye on improving care quality and outcomes.

ONC's next phase, slated to span 2018-2020, aims to expand data sources and increase the number of users to create healthier populations at a lower cost.

The ultimate goal is to build a learning health system by 2024. That will require nationwide interoperability putting "the person at the center of a system that can continuously improve care, public health and science through real-time data access."

Galvez added that the roadmap is about action, not just talking over ways to get through pesky interoperability hurdles.

"The word action is used 107 times in the document," she said.

Indeed, ONC's roadmap is also a clarion call to private healthcare providers, public organizations and U.S. states – if only because the federal government cannot achieve a learning health system without them.

Such an ambitious goal is going to take incentives properly aligned to stimulate information exchange, policy components that move interoperability, patient matching, privacy and security and trust environment, DeSalvo said.

With those in place, the nation will have a platform on which to innovate and drive grand initiatives such as population health and precision medicine.

"This is part of our work to build a system with better care, smarter spending and healthier people," DeSalvo said. "We have a strong sense of urgency and want to see that we receive a return on the investment of establishing electronic health records." 

Related articles: 

GAO's 5 roadblocks to interoperability 

5 reasons to hit pause on Stage 3 meaningful use 

Where are we headed, post-HITECH?