One year ago, we called upon the health IT community to move beyond adoption and focus on interoperability, on unlocking the data, so it can be put to the many important uses demanded by consumers, doctors, hospitals, payers and others who are part of the learning health system. Our goal was to evolve to be best able to lead where appropriate, and partner wherever possible, as we all shift the national strategic focus towards interoperability.

Getting necessary feedback

I personally had the chance to host or participate in nearly two dozen listening sessions across the country. I was able to hear from people on the front lines about what matters most to them.

I also listened to my own experiences—as a doctor, as a daughter and as a consumer. I thought of countless patients whom I have seen and those I continue to see when I am in clinic. We have heard loudly and clearly that there is an intense pressure and impatience to continue the great progress we have made in digitizing the care experience and get to a place where every American has access to their electronic health information when and where it matters to them.

Developing a strategic approach

A key priority is laying out a plan for how the public and private sectors could work together to achieve interoperability. First, we need to standardize standards, including APIs and implementation standards.

"I am optimistic that we are within reach of every American having access to their electronic health information when and where it matters most to them."

Second, we need to have clarity about the trust environment—what are the shared expectations and actions around data security and privacy? And third, we need to incentivize interoperability and the appropriate uses of electronic health information, with the goal to advance health care and health.

Recognizing the bottom line

What we are moving towards is a world in which health IT and interoperability enables better care and better health. This is a community goal. Unless we have the health information technology, including interoperability right, we will not bring payment reform or better care models like the medical home to scale. We will build upon our strong foundation, using the tools and technologies in hand, systematically but with urgency. I am optimistic that together, we can reach our vision—that we are within reach of every American having access to their electronic health information when and where it matters most to them.

Dr. DeSalvo’s remarks appear on Health Affairs Blog, based on her presentation at the Health Information and Management Systems Society 2015 annual conference.