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Telehealth, mHealth Part of ONC Strategic Health IT Plan

By Sara Heath

It has frequently been said that mHealth—specifically telehealth and remote monitoring—play a major role in increasing quality care and patient engagement. To support those two principles, the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) released its Federal Health IT Strategic Plan for 2015-2020, and called for strong mHealth implementation.

telehealth remote monitoring part of ONC health it strategic plan

ONC stated that while its end goal is improving the healthcare delivery system at large, fostering an environment for better health IT and mHealth practices are high on the objectives list for the Strategic Plan.

Person-centered healthcare is at the forefront of achieving these goals. According to the ONC, person-centered healthcare is a model which allows consumers to access their own healthcare through technological means based on their personal needs. mHealth technologies, specifically telehealth and remote monitoring, are important tools for allowing patients to maintain their own health outside of traditional office settings.

“In a person-centered model, the boundaries become more porous between what occurs inside and outside of the health care system, by promoting increased information flow and using technology that allows remote interactions independent of physical location and time constraints,” the report says.

The ONC states it will work to improve the mHealth infrastructure, allowing ease of use for multiple mobile devices, applications, and telehealth technologies.

“Increasingly, individuals will have the ability to contribute information through mobile apps, sensors, social media, and medical devices,” the report says. “It should also leverage electronic health information from multiple sources.”

Increasing the use of mHealth technologies should not only benefit consumers, but providers as well. Creating a strong mHealth infrastructure could allow providers access to authentic, user-generated data, and as such should help improve healthcare delivery.

“An integrated system will facilitate analysis of real-world variations in tests and treatments, identifying the best outcomes, and help accelerate dissemination of this information to providers, individuals and the public in appropriate formats,” it says in the report.

ONC also emphasizes the importance of mHealth with regard to care delivery to all individuals. Specifically, the ONC notes that telehealth and remote monitoring technologies go a long way in improving care in rural communities.

“For example, remote monitoring can allow a care team to monitor an individual’s health status while she is in the comfort of her home, improving the individual’s care experience, or allow a rural hospital to expand its intensive care unit capacity through virtual providers,” ONC states.

However, in order to leverage remote monitoring, mHealth, and telehealth technologies, the correct digital infrastructure must be in place. This means everything from having the actual devices for monitoring to having adequate broadband Internet services over which messages can be sent.

“Maximizing availability of broadband services to all – including low income Americans, those in rural areas and tribal lands, and individuals with disabilities is a key national objective,” the ONC wrote.

As stated above, the goals of this plan are not simply to implement stronger health IT and mHealth practices. Instead, they are to improve the overall quality of care and care delivery via stronger health IT.

ONC officials hope the parameters of this plan will help health IT and mHealth to grow into practices that will allow the ONC to achieve their goals.

“This Plan accounts for how the federal government views our nation’s current health IT landscape and articulates federal values and priorities and it also identifies government actions that we believe will be most impactful as we look to the future,” says National Coordinator for Health Information Technology Karen DeSalvo, MD, MPH, MSc.

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