Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology
The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) is a staff division of the Office of the Secretary, within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. It is primarily focused on coordination of nationwide efforts to implement and use health information technology and the electronic exchange of health information.
The position of National Coordinator was created in 2004, through an Executive Order, and legislatively mandated in the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act of 2009.
The ONC oversees the Nationwide Health Information Network.
With the passage of the HITECH Act, the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) is charged with building an interoperable, private and secure nationwide health information system and supporting the widespread, meaningful use of health information technology.
ONC’s mission includes:
- Promoting development of a nationwide HIT infrastructure that allows for electronic use and exchange of information that:
- Ensures secure and protected patient health information
- Improves health care quality
- Reduces health care costs
- Informs medical decisions at the time/place of care
- Includes meaningful public input in infrastructure development
- Improves coordination of care and information among hospitals, labs, physicians, etc.
- Improves public health activities and facilitates early identification/rapid response to public health emergencies
- Facilitates health and clinical research
- Promotes early detection, prevention, and management of chronic diseases
- Promotes a more effective marketplace
- Improves efforts to reduce health disparities
- Providing leadership in the development, recognition, and implementation of standards and the certification of HIT products;
- Health IT policy coordination;
- Strategic planning for HIT adoption and health information exchange; and
- Establishing governance for the Nationwide Health Information Network.
Physician and public health expert Farzad Mostashari served as the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology from early 2011 until October, 2013. The position is currently held by Karen DeSalvo, and was held by Jacob Reider on an acting basis between Mostashari's departure in October 2013 and DeSalvo's appointment on January 13, 2014. The role of National Coordinator is responsible for developing and executing the nation's Health Information Technology agenda. Mostashari was preceded by physician and Harvard Medical School Professor David Blumenthal (2009-2011), and psychiatrist Robert Kolodner (interim 2006, permanent 2007-2009). The first National Coordinator of Health Information Technology was physician and venture capitalist, David Brailer (2004-2007).
The scope and leadership of the ONC grew during Dr Mostashari's tenure. The current structure of the agency offers insight into their strategic goals, and the agency's interest in collaborative, transparent, experienced leadership. Mostashari appointed two deputies: David Muntz and Judy Murphy both with extensive enterprise health IT leadership experience, and a Chief Medical Officer - Jacob Reider, a family physician who has implemented and developed health IT systems for both enterprise and small practice settings. Muntz, Murphy and Reider joined the existing leaders of ONC: Mat Kendall, Claudia Williams, Jodi Daniel, Joy Pritts and Peter Garrett. ONC also created an "Office of Consumer e-Health" directed by Lygea Riccardi in 2012.
The Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act seeks to improve American health care delivery and patient care through an unprecedented investment in health information technology. The provisions of the HITECH Act are specifically designed to work together to provide the necessary assistance and technical support to providers, enable coordination and alignment within and among states, establish connectivity to the public health community in case of emergencies, and assure the workforce is properly trained and equipped to be meaningful users of EHRs.
The following ONC programs help to build the foundation for every American to benefit from an electronic health record, as part of a modernized, interconnected, and vastly improved system of care delivery.
- Health Information Technology Extension Program: A grant program to establish Health Information Technology Regional Extension Centers to offer technical assistance, guidance and information on best practices to support and accelerate health care providers’ efforts to become meaningful users of Electronic Health Records (EHRs).
- State Health Information Exchange Cooperative Agreement Program: A grant program to support States or State Designated Entities (SDEs) in establishing health information exchange (HIE) capability among healthcare providers and hospitals in their jurisdictions.
- Strategic Health IT Advanced Research Projects (SHARP) Program: A grant program to fund research focused on achieving breakthrough advances to address well-documented problems that have impeded adoption:
- Security of Health Information Technology
- Patient-Centered Cognitive Support
- Healthcare Application and Network Platform Architectures
- Secondary Use of EHR Data
- Beacon Community Program: A grant program for communities to build and strengthen their health information technology (health IT) infrastructure and exchange capabilities. These communities will demonstrate the vision of a future where hospitals, clinicians, and patients are meaningful users of health IT, and together the community achieves measurable improvements in health care quality, safety, efficiency, and population health.
- Community College Consortia to Educate Health Information Technology Professionals Program: A grant program that seeks to rapidly create health IT education and training programs at Community Colleges or expand existing programs. Community Colleges funded under this initiative will establish intensive, non-degree training programs that can be completed in six months or less. This is one component of the Health IT Workforce Program.
- Curriculum Development Centers Program: A grant program to provide $10 million in grants to institutions of higher education (or consortia thereof) to support health information technology (health IT) curriculum development. This is one component of the Health IT Workforce Program.
- Program of Assistance for University-Based Training: A grant program to rapidly increase the availability of individuals qualified to serve in specific health information technology professional roles requiring university-level training. This is one component of the Health IT Workforce Program.
- Competency Examination for Individuals Completing Non-Degree Training Program: A grant program to provide $6 million in grants to an institution of higher education (or consortia thereof) to support the development and initial administration of a set of health IT competency examinations. This is one component of the Health IT Workforce Program.
ONC also created two Federal Advisory Committees, the HIT Policy Committee, which the National Coordinator chairs, and the HIT Standards Committee, chaired by Jonathan Perlin of Hospital Corporation of America to gather public input and provide expert recommendations about Health IT use in the United States.