The Office of the National Coordinator (ONC) for Health Information Technology (IT) recently released a comprehensive five-year strategic plan for advancing health IT in order to reduce medical errors, improve quality, and produce greater value for health care expenditures. In 2004, President Bush established the ONC within the Office of the Secretary of Health and Human Services to coordinate federal health IT policies and programs and to develop, maintain, and direct nationwide implementation of an interoperable health information technology infrastructure to improve the quality and efficiency of care.

The plan has two goals, “Patient-focused Health Care” and “Population Health”, with four objectives under each goal. The first goal seeks a transformation to higher quality, more-cost efficient care, meeting patients’ needs through the access and use of electronic health information. The second goal is to provide for appropriate, authorized, and timely access and use of electronic health information to benefit public health, biomedical research, quality improvement and emergency preparedness.

In addition, the plan provides timelines from 2008 through 2012 for achieving more than forty milestones across the two goals in the areas of:

  • Adoption;
  • Collaborative governance;
  • Interoperability; and
  • Privacy and security.

The ONC is confident that this “next generation of health IT milestones [will] harness the power of information technology to help transform health and care in this country.’’

The plan was created in collaboration with twelve agencies and staff divisions within HHS, the Departments of Commerce, Defense and Veterans Affairs, and the Federal Communications Commission, as well as with contributions from the National Committee on Vital and Health Statistics and the American Health Information Community.

The complete plan, as well as a plan synopsis, can be found at www.hhs.gov/healthit.