ONC lists new goals for aligning clinical and research technology infrastructure

The Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT has put forward some new plans for better aligning the technology needs of clinicians and medical researchers, listing nine key priorities to better support IT-enabled research breakthroughs.

ONC’s National Health IT Priorities for Research: A Policy and Development Agenda was developed in collaboration with federal partners other healthcare stakeholders, incorporating findings from medical literature review, interviews and in-person workshops.

Its goal, according to ONC, is to work toward a nationwide health information technology infrastructure that “supports alignment of the clinical and research ecosystems where research happens faster, better, and easier, and new knowledge is available at the point of care to improve outcomes.”

In the report, officials note that electronic health records and consumer electronics have generated troves digitized health data, and with it a “tremendous opportunity for biomedical and health services researchers. However, the field has been slow to capitalize on the value of this data for research due to difficulties with both the data and the health IT infrastructure.”

These challenges include data quality and consistency, governance structures, policies around data access, limited research tools and services, technical architecture challenges and more.

With the aim better enabling technology to advance biomedical and health services research, ONC is eyeing three objectives with the new initiative: 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.

ONC says it has “two overarching goals: (1) to leverage high-quality electronic health data for research, and (2) to advance a health IT infrastructure to support research.” According to the report, priorities related to leveraging high-quality electronic health data for research include:

  • Priority 1: Improve Data Quality at the Point of Capture
  • Priority 2: Increase Data Harmonization to Enable Research Uses
  • Priority 3: Improve Access to Interoperable Electronic Health Data

Priorities related to advancing a health IT infrastructure to support research include:

  • Priority 4: Improve Services for Efficient Data Storage and Discovery.
  • Priority 5: Integrate Emerging Health and Health-Related Data Sources
  • Priority 6: Improve Methods and Tools to Support Data Aggregation
  • Priority 7: Develop Tools and Functions to Support Research
  • Priority 8: Leverage Health IT Systems to Increase Education and Participation
  • Priority 9: Accelerate Integration of Knowledge at the Point of Care

“ONC has launched a variety of initiatives and activities to address the agenda’s nine priorities, working in collaboration with other federal agencies,” said ONC officials in a blog post.

“For example, ONC has partnered with the National Institutes of Health’s All of Us Research Program to accelerate precision medicine, including advancing standardized data sharing,” they explained. “And ONC’s Leading Edge Acceleration Projects (LEAP) in Health IT seek to overcome obstacles to well-designed, interoperable health IT supporting research and patient care. To achieve the goals in the Agenda, ONC collaborates with the National Institutes of Health, the Food and Drug Administration, and the Veterans Health Administration on these initiatives – along with private sector stakeholders.

The hope here is to “enable researchers to pursue more complex questions and make faster, more reliable discoveries,” they said. “These improvements along with the engagement of a wider, more representative population of research participants have the potential to transform the delivery of healthcare and result in better outcomes for patients.”

Twitter: @MikeMiliardHITN
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Healthcare IT News is a publication of HIMSS Media.

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