ONC’s Annual Meeting: Ongoing Themes Plus Population Health

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By Maria Friedman, Senior Consultant

Tony Schueth, Ed Daniels, myself and more than a thousand other intrepid souls braved the frigid DC weather to attend the ONC annual meeting last month. There were numerous panels featuring ongoing themes, many of which included stakeholders along with very senior officials from ONC and a sprinkling of other agencies. The second day was chockfull of educational sessions.Many were primers on such topics as grants closeouts, IDC-10, certification and privacy and security. Others focused on such ongoing initiatives as Blue Button, Million Hearts and the Beacon grants. 

In the midst of all this, it seemed to me that there were three main takeaways.

What’s next? The first is that ONC is clearly at a crossroads. There is brand new leadership, meaningful use (MU) is between stages and future funding levels are unclear due to the makeup of the current Congress and overall fiscal challenges at the federal level.  That’s why no new real initiatives were announced and the message was: Keep on keepin’ on.  To be sure, there’re a lot of good programs in progress—a lot of which were mentioned in the Day 1 panels and highlighted in the Day 2 sessions. The hope (and expectation) is that they will have robust results to inform future policymaking and implementations. Given all that, it will be interesting to see where ONC is headed in 2014.

Population health. The second takeaway is that population health will be emphasized going forward.That was underscored by ONC’s new leader, Karen DeSalvo, MD, who had come on board about a week before the meeting. Dr. DeSalvo was involved in a good portion of the first day’s panel meetings and presentations. In all of them, she talked about her work in New Orleans to harness health IT to improve population health—a topic that is near and dear to her. She holds Masters’ degrees in Public Health (MPH) from Tulane University and in clinical epidemiology from the Harvard School of Public Health. That training taught her to look at many healthcare issues through the lens of population health.Adding that to her clinical work with disadvantaged populations and her role as NoLA’s Health Commissioner, Dr. DeSalvo is likely to bring more attention on how population health issues can be addressed by health IT. Population health and data were featured prominently at the Day 2 educational sessions.

Ongoing themes with an overseas twist. The third is the continued focus on improved data, data exchange, quality and interoperability—all themes we’ve been enmeshed in over the past few years.HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius added a foreign component with the virtual signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between the US and the UK. The MOU framework creates more opportunities to collaboratively advance the applications of data and technology to improve health through EHRs, quality data, standards and data exchange. The way for the MOU was paved at the bilateral summit last June with our friends across the pond. Stay tuned. If you have your passport ready, more details will be presented at a Health Innovation Expo conference in Manchester, England, in March; otherwise, we’ll hear more at the Health Datapalooza to be held in June 2014 in Washington, D.C.

All in all, this year’s ONC annual meeting was a report out on ongoing themes and programs, with the addition of population health.  Point-of-Care Partners team is advising several clients on strategies and programs to position the organization and its customers to manage populations in the new era of value-based care. Our consultants are recognized throughout the industry for their expertise in eMedication Management, data analytics, and patient engagement. Let us put our knowledge and experience to use for your organization in the management of this transformational shift in health care.

Maria Friedman

Maria Friedman

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