The only way for health IT to achieve its full potential, is when it unobstrusively supports individuals as they strive to reach their full potential for health.
The Federal Health IT Strategic Plan 2015-2020 (Plan) explains how the federal government intends to apply the effective use of information1 and technology to help the nation achieve high-quality care, lower costs, a healthy population, and engaged individuals. This Plan focuses on advancing health information technology (health IT) innovation and use for a variety of purposes; however, the use of health IT is not in itself an end goal.
The work described in this Plan aims to modernize the U.S. health IT infrastructure so that individuals, their providers, and communities can use it to help achieve health and wellness goals. The infrastructure should support dynamic uses of electronic information: uses that facilitate and expedite the transformation of data to information, information to knowledge, and knowledge to informed action. Successful development and implementation of this infrastructure will fortify the cultural shifts necessary to strengthen the collaborative relationships for improving health, health care, research, and innovation.
Evolution in Federal Strategy
Federal agencies are purchasers, regulators, developers, and users of health IT. In their various roles, they set policy and insure, pay for care, or provide direct patient care for tens of millions of Americans. They also protect and promote population and community health by investing in health and human services and in infrastructure. Additionally, federal agencies develop and implement policies and regulations to advance innovation, support research, promote competition, and protect individual and community safety, privacy, and security.
The federal strategy for health IT has evolved. Through implementation of the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act of 2009, as well as long-term development and use of electronic health systems by Department of Defense and Department of Veterans Affairs, the federal government invested heavily in health IT adoption and electronic information. Efforts primarily concentrated on EHR adoption and foundational work to expand health information exchange.
The successes of these initial efforts resulted in the accelerated maturation of the health IT market towards the widespread use of health IT and information exchange. This led to a clearer federal understanding of marketplace strengths and weaknesses, and of the particular needs and interests of individuals and communities. These lessons demonstrated a need within federal entities, whose policies and programs impact the health IT ecosystem, for a more integrated planning approach.
Federal plans now benefit from engagement and coordination by a wider spectrum of government agencies and private sector stakeholders, a continual evaluation of areas that would require new policy or oversight considerations, and of those areas, where greater collaboration with the private sector would be advantageous. Substantial gains in EHR adoption, consumer technology innovation, and information demands across the care continuum helped inform the updated federal health IT approach.
This approach aims to provide clarity in federal policies, programs, and actions. It includes strategies to align program requirements, harmonize and simplify regulations, and aims to help health IT users to advance the learning health system to achieve better health. As federal agencies implement the Plan's strategies and assess their effectiveness, they will strive towards flexibility. The Plan's partners will collaborate with one another, monitor market impact, and assess how their actions are working to accommodate and guide the evolution of health IT. This flexibility centers on a constant aim that federal actions lead towards promoting trustworthy, accessible, and readily available information and technology that helps individuals across the nation achieve their full health potential.
The Plan includes four overarching goals. These goals and their respective objectives and strategies should not be viewed as sequential, but as interdependent with a collective purpose of improving the health and well-being of individuals and communities.
The Plan identifies the federal government's health IT priorities. While this Plan focuses on federal strategies, achieving this Plan's vision requires collaboration from private stakeholders and state, territorial, local, and tribal governments. Efforts across the ecosystem - by individuals, families, caregivers, health care entities and providers, public health entities, payers, technology developers, community-based nonprofit organizations, home-based supports, and academic institutions - are also essential.
Government action will be the main driver for certain strategies, and for others, federal action will either supplement existing stakeholder work or encourage additional activities to begin. The vision and goals articulated in this Plan are not exclusive to the federal government; their attainment will require collaborative engagement and commitment. The Plan seeks to illuminate issues where federal action will have less reach, and where state, territorial, regional, private, and individual actions will be more impactful.
Although this Plan has a broad scope, its implementation has a singular focus: improving the health and well-being of this nation through a resilient health IT infrastructure. Many strategies included in this Plan necessitate broad cultural changes. This Plan takes a holistic and long-range view of how the health IT infrastructure should evolve to advance person-centered health and wellness. Federal agencies will follow the Federal Health IT Principles described below during Plan implementation.
This Plan pursues a flexible, dynamic approach, and the federal government will make necessary adjustments if needed. Achieving the Plan's vision will require collective responsibility and prioritization, and the federal government will continue to engage with all interested stakeholders to ensure that people, organizations, and communities can best take advantage of electronic health information and the health IT infrastructure.