Federal health IT officials have, for the first time, released a draft strategic plan that outlines their priorities for the first half of the 2020s. The focus appears to be on moving to a more patient-focused form of healthcare, with health data accessible through smartphone apps and application programming interfaces (APIs).

The plan provides insight into federal health IT goals and objectives while ensuring consumers have access to their electronic health information. Additionally, the plan is designed to help them to manage their health and shop for care, according to the Office for the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC).

The draft federal strategic plan makes a nod toward provisions in the 21st Century Cures Act, which may help bring electronic health information into the hands of patients through smartphone applications, Don Rucker, M.D., National Coordinator for Health IT, said in a statement. “We look forward to public comment to help guide the federal government’s strategy to have a more connected health system that better serves patients," he said.

The plan matches up with two big data-sharing rules developed by HHS, including ONC’s proposed information blocking rule (PDF) — outlining seven exceptions to the prohibition against information blocking and provides standardized criteria for application programming interface (API) development.

In the draft plan, ONC has four primary objectives for the use of health IT. These include promoting health and wellness; enhancing the delivery and experience of care; building a secure, data-driven ecosystem to accelerate research and innovation; and connecting healthcare and health data through an interoperable health IT infrastructure.

The plan is ONC’s roadmap for federal health IT initiatives, activities, and priorities to the private sector, Elise Sweeney Anthony, executive director of policy at ONC, and Seth Pazinski, director of ONC's Office of planning, evaluation, and analysis, wrote in a blog post.

"ONC and our federal partners strive to promote a health information technology (health IT) landscape that can increase transparency, competition, and consumer choice while also seeking to protect the privacy and security of individuals' health information. These efforts include making coordinated investments, developing standards and policies for secure, standards-based application programming interfaces (APIs), and promoting user-focused technologies," Anthony and Pazinksi wrote.

ONC also wants social determinants of health (SDOH) data captured and integrated into EHRs and is pushing for advanced capabilities like machine learning, evidence-based clinical decision support, smart dashboards and alerts, and improved patient matching to improve the safety and quality of health care.

ONC also is attempting to increase the use of health IT to drive price competition and increase transparency and affordability in healthcare by making quality and price information available to patients in an easily understandable format, which may encourage competitive business practices and allow individuals to choose from multiple validated health apps without extraordinary effort.

ONC developed the strategic plan with more than 25 federal organizations.