ONC Head Testifies on the Hill

Donald Rucker MD, National Coordinator for Health IT appeared December 11, 2018 https://www.healthit.gov before the House Committee on Energy & Commerce’s Subcommittee on Health to discuss how ONC is proceeding to implement the provisions required in Title IV in the 21st Century Cures Act.

Dr Rucker highlighted HHS efforts to advance electronic health information to patients and providers under the Cures Act. So far, ONC has started implementing the EHR Reporting Program since the Cures Act requires ONC to provide publicly available comparative information on certified health IT products.

Last August, ONC issued a Request for Information for the public to share their views on the components of the EHR Reporting Program. Dr. Rucker reports that ONC received 77 public comments from health IT developers and provider organizations representing all major segments of the provider community, payers, and health plans.

Also, ONC has developed a proposed rule to support the access, exchange, and use of electronic health information. The proposed rule included certification requirements for health IT developers under the ONC Health IT Certification Program. This rule will provide for stakeholder outreach, plus more than 150 meetings are going to be held with key health IT stakeholders before a final rule is issued.

Dr. Rucker discussed how emerging technologies and the use of mobile apps will provide individuals with access to their electron health information. An app marketplace will produce tailored products to address patient needs and also when it is necessary to manage multiple chronic conditions.

He explained that a robust health app ecosystem can lead to disease-specific apps and allow patients to share their health information with researchers working on clinical trials. The researchers will be testing drugs to know if a treatment is effective and to monitor outcomes. Apps can also help address barriers related to patient literacy and comprehension by presenting complex information in a more understandable way.

ONC is also working to increase connectivity among health information networks. Currently, there are more than 100 regional networks and multiple national level organization supporting health information exchange.

The Cures Act directs ONC to support a Trusted Exchange Framework to include a Common Agreement seeking to expand health information exchange nationwide. The goal is to ensure that patients, providers, community and social services, and payers are able to access real-time health information. The first draft for the Trusted Exchange Framework was released for public comment in January 2018.

Before concluding, Dr. Rucker told the committee how ONC has invested in grants and pilots. ONC funded the initial development of the Patient Unified Lookup System for Emergencies (PULSE) enabling emergency volunteers to access critical health information on medications, allergies, and major illnesses during disasters. California’s PULSE was used during the recent wildfires to help victims receive their necessary prescriptions without going to an overwhelmed emergency room.

Also, ONC funded research at Boston Children’s Hospital Computational Health Informatics Program and the Harvard Medical School Department for Biomedical Informatics that led to the development of SMART Health IT.

SMART Health IT is an open standards based technology platform that enables innovators to create apps that seamlessly and securely are able to run across the healthcare system. In addition, ONC and NIH initiated the “Sync for Science” pilot to allow individuals to access their health information and send their health information to researchers in support of the Precision Medicine Initiative.


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