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Jenna/Flickr (CC BY 2.0) | Remix by Jason Reed

The federal government is trying to clean up its messy health-records databases

The Department of Health and Human Services has laid out its plan for electronic health records and is asking for public comment


Allen Weiner


Posted on Dec 12, 2014   Updated on May 30, 2021, 12:08 am CDT

Big businesses generally lay out their information-technology plans for the coming year around the middle of December, and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is no different. On Monday, HHS released the Federal Health IT Strategic Plan 2015-2020.

In announcing its health IT plans for the next five years, HHS is attempting to bring together several massive databases of electronic health records (EHR). It wants the entire federal government to collect, share, and use information in a common framework.

HHS’ plan, detailed in a 28-page document, cover specific programs at the departments of Agriculture, Defense, Education, Justice, and Labor. Also included are the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), and the White House’s Office of Personnel Management (OPM).

As required by law, HHS is opening a two-month public comment period so that citizens can weigh in on the interoperability standards and electronic-health-record management proposals. The comment period ends Feb 6, 2015.

The development of a single standard for electronic health records is a key component of President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act. The ACA, also known as “Obamacare,” established the goal of creating a secure repository for electronic health records across the entire federal bureaucracy.

As a preliminary step, physicians and hospitals were asked to convert their records to a sharable electronic format beginning with the law’s enactment in 2010. As of June 2014, according to HHS data, 75 percent of physicians and 92 percent of hospitals had completed this task.

In its announcement, HHS said that expanding the use of electronic health records would aid scientific research and improve the delivery of individual care.

During the comment period, HHS expects to hear from the public on privacy regulations protecting patient records, the collection and sharing of data from wearable devices, and the availability and publication of specific cost-benefit analyses.

Photo via Jenna/Flickr (CC BY 2.0) | Remix by Jason Reed

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*First Published: Dec 12, 2014, 3:10 pm CST