Interoperability will play a key role in renewed HHS strategic plan
Every four years, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) releases a multi-year roadmap to reflect the department’s overarching priorities and goals for the near future.
The latest iteration of the HHS Strategic Plan, covering the years 2022 to 2026, reaffirms HHS’s commitment to core tenants of health and wellbeing, including health equity, socioeconomic resilience, trust in scientific principles, and accountability.
The plan also addresses issues that have increased in importance during the COVID-19 pandemic, including access to affordable behavioral healthcare, public education around research and evidence, and the transparent, coordinated management of financial and human resources.
Naturally, provider organizations and their partners across the health IT industry will play a central role in bringing HHS’s vision of a more accessible, affordable, equitable ecosystem to fruition.
To achieve HHS’s five strategic goals, they will need to continue to make significant investments in the technical, clinical, and financial pillars of health data interoperability.
Goal 1: Protect and strengthen equitable access to high quality and affordable healthcare
Data transparency and information access are crucial for controlling costs and increasing options for patients. Recent rule-based efforts to equip consumers with price transparency data and easy access to personal health data will further this mission, but provider organizations must make a sustained effort to liberate their data from walled gardens and fortified data siloes if they are to truly embrace the spirit of the regulations.
Goal 2: Safeguard and improve national and global health conditions and outcomes
The COVID-19 pandemic has been the ultimate stress test for the nation’s public health data infrastructure. While many healthcare providers and their partners in government and community health were able to develop new COVID reporting and analytics tools extremely quickly, there’s still much to be done to strengthen the industry’s capacity to identify emerging trends, inform clinical research efforts, and allocate resources appropriately.
Goal 3: Strengthen social well-being, equity, and economic resilience
Value-based care has helped to put the social determinants of health (SDOHs) front and center for payers, providers, and health IT companies. As stakeholders engage in more and more socioeconomic initiatives to promote holistic health, they will need increased access to structured, complete, and accurate SDOH data. Merging this information with existing clinical records and other real-world data sources will be essential for improving the overall experiences and outcomes of underserved and vulnerable communities.
Goal 4: Restore trust and accelerate advancements in science and research for all
The public is massively divided over its trust in science, from epidemiology to climate change. Restoring faith in facts will require transparency in the origin, use, and interpretation of data. HHS plans to continue investing heavily in research and development, meaning healthcare providers, payers, life science companies, and other solution providers will need to find better ways to move their data around to inform innovative research while maintaining patient privacy and data security.
Goal 5: Advance strategic management to build trust, transparency, and accountability
As interoperability increases, so too must data governance and organizational accountability. HHS is committed to continually improving its departmental oversight and operations, and it will no doubt expect all healthcare stakeholders to do the same. From cybersecurity to workplace diversity and inclusion, healthcare organizations will need to ensure they are good stewards of their data and good partners to their patients.
Over the next four years, data interoperability will likely become increasingly important for achieving HHS’s strategic goals.
Healthcare stakeholders should examine their current data exchange capabilities and develop a similarly long-term vision for how to enhance, strengthen, and improve the flow of data to support a more affordable, equitable, and patient-friendly healthcare environment.
Jennifer Bresnick is a journalist and freelance content creator with a decade of experience in the health IT industry. Her work has focused on leveraging innovative technology tools to create value, improve health equity, and achieve the promises of the learning health system.