ONC poised for action on health IT priorities

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David Blumenthal, MD, the national health IT coordinator, and members of the health IT advisory panels created by the economic stimulus are gearing up to tackle how to best execute the $2 billion in health IT funds designated under funding provisions of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA).

"It means that we can begin to make decisions on how to get the mechanics of implementation rolling," Blumenthal said at an event sponsored by the Markle Foundation's Connecting for Health collaborative, reported Government Health IT.

Early funding will be particularly important in efforts to open extension centers for technical assistance to healthcare providers, in training a health IT work force and to spark health information exchange, he said, adding that interoperability is especially essential to protecting the public health.

Blumenthal welcomed the contributions of organizations, such as Connecting for Health, to assist the government in setting direction on health IT, and, "telling us how to prevent the problems we could create by regulating too much or by being too precise or specific or by being too intrusive."

By putting the health IT provisions of the ARRA into effect, the hope is to improve healthcare efficiency, quality and population health, he added.

"We understand that health IT is a vital enabler to be part of a transformed 21st century healthcare system. If we could do it just as well without health IT, we would do it without health IT, but we can't," he said.

Connecting for Health also announced its framework for meaningful use of certified health IT, as outlined in the law, emphasizing that HHS should start with practical goals. "Meaningful use focus on medication management and coordination of care, functions that are achievable even for smaller practices via internet-enabled technologies," the group said, adding that the provision should prescribe standard information types that are electronic, widely adopted and which can support measurement of treatment outcomes, reported Government Health IT.