The Federal Health IT Strategic Plan states the government's goal is to make health information more accessible to improve and protect patient health while reducing costs related to IT and technology use. Interoperability, like that provided with the use of VNAs, is the key to making this possible in the allotted 2015-2020 time frame, hence the formation of a task force and use of a roadmap.

The goal
To make healthcare imaging and information more readily available across many platforms, the Federal Health IT Strategic Plan mentions three major steps: collecting healthcare IT; sharing the information and images between individuals, communities and providers; and using the data to better the system, research and patient care.

  • Collect: Technology like vendor neutral archives is a major part of the plan's collect section. Switching hospitals to one centralized form of healthcare information archiving will streamline this process, making moving information and images from one provider to the next much easier. This will also improve the way physicians and patient read these documents.
  • Sharing: Once the data is gathered, it must then be shared. When patients seek medical assistance, information will be uploaded to the cloud or other archival services. That information can now be easily shared with other providers. They won't have to answer another round of extensive questions or undergo duplicate tests or images, saving time for patients and physicians. The information is stored and shared in ways that protect the privacy of both the healthcare provider and the patient and align with state and federal privacy laws.
  • Use: At this stage, there are three goals. The first, strengthening healthcare delivery, focuses around physicians providing the best care possible. The second promotes the progression of health and well being in both communities and individuals. And lastly, the fifth goal is about advancing scientific knowledge, research and innovation. Using VNA technology promotes all of these parameters while reducing imaging costs and improving physician workflow

Building an EHI tech-friendly culture
The new federal policies and actions involving healthcare IT will work to foster an environment where universal health information exchange is secure, accepted and expected. This productive culture benefits both healthcare providers and patients, as use of VNA is more cost-effective, efficient and user-friendly.

The government also hopes that its actions and policies will provide a place to give feedback between healthcare communities and scientific research, allowing for better performance and turning evidence into actual practice.

The task force
According to Clinical Innovation + Technology, a new organization called the Healthcare Services Platform Consortium has formed to promote native interoperability. The group plans to continue improving and implementing application development with open-standards-based services oriented architecture. It supports an app store model, which will be easier for vendors to learn and use and also shorten the lifestyle of program development.

Federal Interoperability Task Force update
On Sept. 9, the federal Interoperability Task Force presented a report to the Health IT Policy Committee. It stated that the motivation for interoperability exists, but the specific and global actions are unknown. The ITF mentioned that using clear data, like stating the financial benefits to a provider who implements electronic prescribing, can make the implementation process faster. 

Task force chair Dr. Paul Tang, told Clinical Innovation + Technology that, "To really deal with what we're asking for — move important, relevant information among various stakeholders to improve health — is a big, heavy lift." A lot of actions must take place across various platforms in order for interoperability to truly take hold.

Tang mentioned implementing portions of the roadmap to actually use it, not just referring to it when necessary and keeping the plan on a shelf. There are many stages of enhancing vendor performance and improving patient experience, and they cannot all be dealt with at once, hence the use of the roadmap. After the task force's report, committee members praised Tang and the group for their efforts but requested more details and stated that the task force should not be indefinitely funded by the government.

News brought to you by the TeraMedica Division of FUJIFILM Medical Systems U.S.A., Inc., leaders in healthcare enterprise imaging (VNA) solutions.