Feds prioritize researcher access to health data in IT action plan

Federal officials are to prioritize making high-quality electronic health data more readily available to researchers over the next 5 years. Objectives include increased use of trial data in patient-focused outcomes studies, the application of health IT to improve clinical research and greater openness.

The objectives were listed in the final Federal Health IT Strategic Plan for 2015-2020, a document the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) put together in collaboration with 35 federal partners. Research is given a more central role in the report than it was last time ONC outlined its plans in 2011, a situation that reflects the fact that some of heavy lifting in health IT is now done. The fostering of "research, scientific knowledge and innovation" is one of four goals for the coming five-year period.

Within this broad goal, ONC picks out increased "access to and usability of high-quality electronic health information and services" as a specific objective. ONC has 6 strategies for furthering this objective. "[We will] pioneer a new scientific model that emphasizes engaged participants, responsible data sharing, and privacy protection through a research cohort of volunteers who share genetic data, biological samples and diet and lifestyle information, connected through health IT," ONC staffers wrote in the report.

The other 5 strategies outlined by ONC range from the broad--the need to "increase the number, timeliness, quality and usability of federal health and other relevant data sets available for public use"--to the more specific. ONC, like all federal divisions involved with health, has one eye on the needs of the Precision Medicine Initiative. The evaluation of the ability of health IT to move precision medicine into clinical practice through the integration of research data is one of the strategies put forward by ONC. 

- read the report (PDF)