View from the Hill: ONC’s Road Map for National Health IT


July / August 2008

View from the Hill

ONC’s Road Map for National Health IT

For decades, public and private healthcare systems in the United States have operated with processes and management styles that would have bankrupted most industries years ago. Most aspects of our healthcare delivery system continue to operate as if lost in a maze, which effects both patient safety and quality. The end goal is often not in sight or even considered. In fact, there has been neither a short- nor long-term road map on this trip called healthcare, where baggage collects along the way, and the desired destination is a mystery.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) offers a dose of reality — the Coordinated Federal Health IT Strategic Plan: 2008-2012 ( The Plan, which was released on June 3, has 2 goals, patient-focused healthcare and population health, with 4 objectives under each goal. The objectives for patient-focused healthcare include privacy and security, interoperability, EHR adoption, and collaborative governance. Achievement of the 8 objectives is tied to measurable outcomes.

The ONC Strategic Plan articulates 43 strategies that describe the work needed to achieve each objective. Each strategy is associated with a milestone against which progress can be assessed, and a set of illustrative actions to implement each strategy. When National Coordinator Rob Kolodner spoke at the National Health IT Week Networking event sponsored by HIMSS at the Library of Congress on June 11, he encouraged everybody to read this strategic plan, provide feedback, and be part of its implementation. Feedback can be provided via HIMSS to

A Government Accountability Office (GAO) report issued in September 2006 warned that without a strategic plan, the ONC would be in danger of failing to achieve the Presidential Objective of having EHRs for most Americans by 2014, despite the good start established with efforts and strategic objectives from July 2004 to September 2006.

 The entire healthcare industry needs to take a thorough look at the Strategic Plan. The ONC has met many of the industry objectives that the GAO and Institute of Medicine have been asking them to deliver. The next step will be to see if all public and private affected entities agree with the content and timelines for the deliverables. Every major part of the healthcare delivery system needs a Strategic Plan. Healthcare IT is extremely important to the system, but it is part of a larger pie that needs every ingredient to achieve its desired effect. We must begin to examine this larger pie, chart the road map, and create the healthcare reality of the leading world power.

Institute for e-Health Policy
The HIMSS Foundation’s new Institute for e-Health Policy will provide educational opportunities in the Washington, D.C., area for public- and private-sector stakeholders to begin this examination. The not-for-profit Institute’s purpose is to transform federal and state policy into everyday practice. The Institute will sponsor numerous opportunities for dialogue throughout the year. For more information, visit

Policy decisions made in our nation’s Capital have a tremendous impact on healthcare and e-health policy decisions and initiatives across our nation. These policy decisions have a direct effect on healthcare delivery, patient safety, and quality. Policy informed and developed via strategic planning or a road map just makes good business sense. The ONC Strategic Plan is a step forward, and we commend 2008 HIMSS Federal Leadership Award winner, Dr. Rob Kolodner, for his dedication and persistence in completing this key plan.

Dave Roberts is vice president of government relations for the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) and senior executive of HIMSS’ Office of Advocacy & Public Policy in Arlington, Virginia. Formerly a professional staff member for both the U.S. House Appropriations Committee and the U.S. Senate Health Subcommittee on the Handicapped and a civilian financial analyst for the U.S. Air Force, Roberts now resides with his family in San Diego County, California, where he serves as mayor of the city of Solana Beach. He is a member of the Editorial Advisory Board for Patient Safety and Quality Healthcare and may be contacted at