Monday, July 11, 2011

What is ONC?

ONC is the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology. The Office of the National Coordinator operates within the Office of the Secretary for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). ONC’s primary focus is the coordination and implementation of health information technology and electronic exchange of health information.  
According to ONC’s website, their mission includes the following:
  • Promoting development of a nationwide Health IT infrastructure that allows for electronic use and exchange of information that:
    • Ensures secure and protected patient health information
    • Improves health care quality
    • Reduces health care costs
    • Informs medical decisions at the time/place of care
    • Includes meaningful public input in infrastructure development
    • Improves coordination of care and information among hospitals, labs, physicians, etc.
    • Improves public health activities and facilitates early identification/rapid response to public health emergencies
    • Facilitates health and clinical research
    • Promotes early detection, prevention, and management of chronic diseases
    • Promotes a more effective marketplace
    • Improves efforts to reduce health disparities
  • Providing leadership in the development, recognition, and implementation of standards and the certification of Health IT products;
  • Health IT policy coordination;
  • Strategic planning for Health IT adoption and health information exchange; and
  • Establishing governance for the Nationwide Health Information Network.
The position of the National Coordinator was established in 2004 by George Bush’s administration and legislatively mandated by the HITECH Act. Farzad Mostashari, a physician and public health expert, currently holds the position of National Coordinator. Mostashari took the position in July 2009.
ONC has played a large role in the Medicare and Medicaid Electronic Health Record Incentive Programs established under the HITECH Act. ONC wrote the Final Rule documentation, a staged approach to adopting capabilities, standards and specifications required for achieving meaningful use. To date, only documentation on meeting the measures for Stage 1 of meaningful use have been released to the public. Furthermore, ONC was tasked with establishing a program for the testing and certification of health information technology as being in compliance with certification criteria to meet defined meaningful use requirements. ONC wrote testing requirements, test cases and test tools with NIST and established ONC-Authorized Testing and Certification Bodies (ATCB’s) to perform the testing and certification of EHR systems. ONC has selected six organizations to serve as ATCB’s. ONC also maintains the ONC Certified HIT Product List (CHPL), a list of certified Inpatient and Ambulatory EHR systems. The CHPL can be viewed here.

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