Public Release:  AMIA identifies areas to strengthen Federal health IT strategic plan

Ensuring vendor accountability, supporting profession's expansion are strategic keys to success

American Medical Informatics Association

AMIA, the association for informatics professionals, has weighed in on the Federal Health IT Strategic Plan in response to the HHS Office of the National Coordinator's (ONC) call for comments on the overarching strategy for realizing health IT goals set forth by the U.S. Congress and the Administration. AMIA President and CEO Edward H. Shortliffe, PhD, MD, summarizes AMIA's comments simply:

"Because health IT provides the surest means to improve quality, efficiency, safety, and patient-centric care, it is essential that there are well trained personnel in the field to support its use and that the collaborative support of vendors who implement electronic health record systems is part of the plan. The highest use of health IT--what the ONC has called 'meaningful use'--supports healthcare professionals to enhance the quality of what they do, with the added benefits of improving health outcomes, increasing transparency and efficiency, and improving the ability to study and improve health care. The strongest strategy is to focus all the resources related to adoption of health IT in unison, as we take this important step forward with our healthcare system."

AMIA states in its comments to ONC that several elements of the Strategic Plan are laudable, including the creation of standards, certification of systems, and the incorporation of these issues into medical education. However, AMIA expressed some concerns:

  • The successful implementation of a safe electronic platform through which to improve healthcare delivery and quality requires investment in people across a broad range of expertise levels. This means that not only must healthcare providers invest in EHR systems, but they must also acquire the competencies necessary to work with electronic records, including basic computer skills, information literacy, and both a conceptual and pragmatic understanding of informatics and information management capabilities.

  • Support for workforce development must expand and be ongoing. A broader pool of workers who can help health and healthcare organizations and practitioners maximize the effectiveness of their investments in technology is needed, in addition to a population of scientists who can perform research that will lead to the HIT innovations of tomorrow. Recent workforce investments have largely overlooked the latter group of informatics experts, which is creating a serious shortfall in the number of individuals who can become academic leaders, educators, and the innovators who will drive the evolution of clinical systems in the years ahead.

  • Many issues regarding safety relate to the quality of the implementation in a given provider setting, not simply to the vendors' systems. Ongoing testing of systems as implemented would be an important step toward development of a clear plan to evaluate and assure systems' usability and integration with clinical workflow. The vendor community should be encouraged to take safety considerations and open exchange of lessons learned especially seriously as their products evolve.

"While AMIA supports the adoption of electronic health records and health information exchanges," says AMIA Board Chairwoman Nancy M. Lorenzi, PhD, Assistant Vice Chancellor for Health Affairs and Professor of Biomedical Informatics at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, "we urge ONC to continue to pay attention to related issues such as data integrity and data stewardship, which are particularly critical considerations as health data from multiple sources are integrated and exchanged."

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The full text of AMIA's comments is available at www.amia.org/public-policy/testimony-comments-reports

AMIA, the leading professional association for informatics professionals, serves as the voice of the nation's top biomedical and health informatics professionals and plays an important role in medicine, health care, and science, encouraging the use of data, information and knowledge to improve both human health and delivery of healthcare services.

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