By Megan Williams, contributing writer
The Office of the National Coordinator (ONC) has recently announced its latest step in ushering in a new era of healthcare focused on quality and value — a white paper titled Health IT Enabled Quality Improvement: A Vision To Achieve Better Health And Health Care.
The paper is targeted at IT stakeholders including clinicians, consumers, hospitals, public health, technology developers, payers, researchers, policymakers, and others, and encourages them to connect with the ONC in their efforts to achieve truly interoperable health information systems.
In its announcement on HealthIT.gov, the ONC draws attention to the long tradition quality measurement has had in healthcare. Agencies like the Joint Commission, the Centers For Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), The National Committee For Quality Assurance (NCQA), and the National Quality Forum (NQF) have historically worked to help care delivery organizations identify gaps in quality and spur those same organizations on toward best practices. Still, the ONC acknowledges the importance of real-time feedback loops in making real change in regard to quality.
This is where the medical informatics community, and its 30 years of work on decision support functionality comes in. The agency points out that, up until recently, clinical decision support (CDS) and clinical quality measures (CQM) “have been developed using different tools, by different technical teams, with different expertise, and different (but convergent) goals”
The white paper contextualizes the discussion around achieving healthcare interoperability, specifically by detailing advancements including:
- State involvement in health information exchanges (HIE)
- Rates around hospital ability to search patient information systems
- The relationship between CMS and private payers regarding different payment models and payment environments
- The creation of a health IT product testing and certification program
- Meaningful Use statistics
- Technical innovations in the industry
It also identifies opportunities including,
- Increased health IT adoption by providers and facilities that have not received incentives
- Usability and clinician workflow improvements
- Evolving interoperability standards to support QI
- The need for new, longitudinal measures due to the shift to value-based payment and accountable care
- Using health IT as a tool to close gaps in health equity and disparities in access to quality and affordable care
The paper also offers insights into the vision of the future of the health IT ecosystem, and provides guiding principles that the ONC will use as it moves forward.