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Federal Agencies Set Agenda for Leveraging Health Information Technology

The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) recently spearheaded efforts to develop the “National Health IT Priorities for Research: A Policy and Development Agenda,” which articulates a vision for a health IT infrastructure that supports alignment between the clinical and research ecosystems allowing research to happen more quickly and effectively. Drawing on background reports, interviews, and workshops, ONC set an informed Agenda that outlines nine priorities, including concrete strategies and actions intended to address relevant data, tools, and infrastructure needs over the next 3-5 years. The priorities range from improving data quality at the time of capture to making data more useful for research through advances in storage, harmonization, and aggregation, thus enabling researchers to pursue more complex questions and make faster, more reliable discoveries. 

Developed in collaboration with the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and the Veterans Health Administration (VA), and with input from stakeholders, the Agenda recognizes the need for a more comprehensive and coordinated effort related to electronic health data, as each works to achieve their individual missions, goals, and programs. Collaborators from each of these agencies, including CBIIT Director, Dr. Tony Kerlavage, describe the importance of this comprehensive and coordinated action in a newly published article, “Leveraging the Health Information Technology (IT) Infrastructure to Advance Federal Research Priorities.”

The article details the Agenda and how it can help benefit and support not only these individual agencies but the entire ecosystem surrounding health IT.

For example, for NCI, improving access to a robust health data infrastructure that aggregates and harmonizes health data from diverse and novel sources will lead to a better understanding of how medications can be developed to target specific types of cancer. The Agenda also creates opportunities for across-agency initiatives, building on current efforts such as precisionFDA, a tool used in research that allows scientists to more easily compare data from genetic samples. Additionally, the Agenda includes opportunities for leveraging new data sources through electronic health records.

Thanks to progress in health IT, data are amassing rapidly, and the ability to gather useful data will continue to accelerate in the coming years. This collaborative Agenda sets the stage for these advances and ensures that research and patients alike can reap the benefits of health IT data, further improving public health through scientific discovery.

 

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