White House Group Offers Sneak Peek of Health I.T. Goals

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The National Science and Technology Council seeks feedback on a health IT framework.

In the face of a presidential budget proposal that slashes federal research dollars, a group of government councils has argued for more research into one specific area: health information technology.

They envision a world in which all citizens have identification bracelets that store their medical records and sensors can monitor subtle changes in a patient’s vital signs. But attaining that vision requires strategic R&D investments in health IT, a White House National Science and Technology Council subcommittee wrote in a draft framework it's posting for public comment.

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Agencies should devote attention to securing medical data, validating it and using it to improve health care in the United States, the framework said. That might involve applying analytics, machine learning and artificial intelligence to medical research.

The subcommittee outlined several goals for investment in the framework, including:

  • Predicting the course of diseases to better prevent them.
  • Tailoring treatment to specific patients, known as “precision medicine.”
  • Eliminating medical errors by automatically capturing data from medical equipment, such as biological monitors.
  • Ensuring patient treatment can continue seamlessly as they move between health care providers and that the health IT systems at each facility are interoperable.
  • Using connected devices, medical records and other technology to help with disaster response.
  • Creating a workforce that can support health IT R&D.

Health IT research shouldn’t be the responsibility of any one agency, but rather “a multiagency, multisector, comprehensive focus on the difficult cross-cutting R&D challenges,” the framework said.

They proposed using systems like joint solicitations, which more than one agency can issue for specific health IT needs; research collaborations, and making use of the Other Transaction Authority under which agencies can issue short-term agreements for prototypes or short-term projects.

It remains unclear how much stock Trump’s administration puts in health IT; a recent budget proposal outlines a 36 percent budget cut at the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT. The budget proposal directed that agency to work more with the private sector to promote advanced technology.

The deadline for comments on the framework is June 28.