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The future role of the ONC


John D. Halamka, M.D., chief information officer and dean for technology at the Harvard Medical School, ruminates in MedCity News on the future of Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC):

“As Meaningful Use winds down and incentive dollars are fully spent, what is the optimal role for the ONC going forward?”

”Some pundits have suggested that ONC step aside and return all aspects of HIT policy and technology to the private sector.   Others have suggested top down command and control of HIT including centralized governance to ensure interoperability.

”…Here’s my view about the future of ONC that includes points from both sides.”

”The Argonaut initiative is a good exemplar of the private sector working to enhance interoperability in response to the market demands of accountable care organizations, which depend on data to succeed in a risk contracting world.”

”There is clearly a role for the private sector to lead innovation and standards adoption….”

”However, even the best innovations require a regulatory and ecosystem context to enable the marketplace to blossom.   The healthcare sector is the most fragmented industry in our complicated economy, both on the demand side (patients, insurers, employers) and on the supply side (physician practices and hospitals).  ONC can be a focal point for the discussion of regulatory barriers to data liquidity, novel workflows, and alignment of incentives.”

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