Along with the primary goal of expanding the availability of health insurance, the Affordable Care Act aims to make the use of Electronic Health Records (EHR) universal. This plan actually began with the 2009 stimulus (the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act), which included the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act. Doctors and other health providers have been offered incentives to convert patient information and health histories to a compatible and transferable electronic format, and as of June 2014, 75 percent of eligible doctors and 92 percent of eligible hospitals had received payments under the program.
This week, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced the release of the Federal Health IT Strategic Plan 2015-2020, which details the efforts of some 35 departments and agencies of the federal government and their roles in the plan to "advance the collection, sharing, and use of electronic health information to improve health care, individual and community health, and research." The plan is illustrated with the following graphic:
Each step of the plan includes three-year and six-year goals, and the various goals, depending on their focus, require the involvement of department and agencies as disparate as the Department of Defense, the Federal Trade Commission, and NASA, in addition to the expected participation of entities such as HHS, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, and the Indian Health Service. The report includes a comprehensive list of all departments and agencies involved:
While Electronic Health Records (EHR) are the most visible example of the type of information the plan discusses, other technologies include "mobile and telehealth technology, cloud-based services,
medical devices, and remote monitoring devices, assistive technologies, and sensors." The plan stresses the importance of government in developing these technologies given its roles to "provide direct care and health insurance, protect public health, fund health and human services for certain populations, invest in infrastructure, develop and implement policies and regulations, and advance groundbreaking research."
Now that HHS has publicly released the Federal Health IT Strategic Plan, the agency is seeking the input from the public before implementation. The plan is subject to two-month period of public comment before finalization. The comment period runs through February 6, 2015.