The $87M Push That Could Make or Break Our Public Health Data System

Since its inception in 2004, the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) has delivered outsized results for its size. This subdivision of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has a budget of around $60 million and a team of approximately 150 people — small by federal standards — to accomplish the large task of “Improv(ing) the health and well-being of individuals and communities through the use of technology and health information that is accessible when and where it matters most.”

Each generation of ONC leaders has smartly focused the agency on a few pressing priorities. In its first phase, ONC laid the blueprint for nationwide information sharing. Then ONC guided the rapid adoption of electronic health records by nearly all hospitals and most physicians across the U.S. More recently, ONC has championed breaking up information silos through new application programming interface (API) standards, patient data access, and information blocking regulations.

Now with public health data modernization taking on new urgency, the pressing need to improve health equity and the ongoing challenges of healthcare cost and quality, President Biden has proposed a 40 percent increase in funding for ONC. If approved by Congress, ONC will receive $87 million for fiscal year 2022. With more funding, prominence, and demands, where should ONC place its focus?

Read the article by Claudia Williams, CEO, Manifest MedEx, published in MedCity News.