Both the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) have spent time and dollars this July on the future of electronic health information.

The ONC announced on July 18 the Phase 1 winners of two challenges to make electronic health records (EHRs) easier to access and use.

Karen DeSalvo launched the Consumer Health Data Aggregator Challenge and the Provider User Experience Challenge at the HIMSS conference in March. “This strategy will help us reach the consumer and provider-friendly future of health IT we all seek,” said DeSalvo, national coordinator for health information technology. “It reflects our guiding principles that consumers and providers should have easy, secure access to health information and the ability to direct that information when and where it is needed most.”

The Health Data Aggregator Challenge asked participants to create a solution that allows patients to easily and electronically access their health data from across different health care providers and health IT systems.

The four winners are:

  • Green Circle Health: Provides a comprehensive family health dashboard incorporating patient-generated health data from wearables, sensors, and other connected devices.
  • HealthCentrix: The Prevvy Family Health Assistant app suite allows users to manage an entire family’s health and wellness.
  • Medyear: Mobile app merges a patient’s records from multiple sources into one clean interface.
  • MetroStar Systems: The Locket app brings patient information from different EHRs together and includes paper-free check-in and appointment scheduling and reminders.

“It is exciting to see the level of innovation that is taking place in health IT today,” said Vindell Washington, principal deputy national coordinator, announcing the Phase 1 winners. “The apps that these challenges will produce have the potential to spur real-world improvements for individuals and clinicians throughout the health system.”

The Provider User Experience Challenge asked participants to make data accessible and enhance the provider experience with EHRs.

The four winners are:

  • Herald Health: Highlights patient information that clinicians need the most and allows for highly customizable alerts based on real-time EHR data.
  • PHRASE Health: PHRASE (Population Health Risk Assessment Support Engine) Health creates a clinical decision support platform, incorporates more external data sources, and allows for the two-way exchange of data and knowledge.
  • University of Utah Health Care/Intermountain Healthcare/Duke Health System: Clinical decision support for timely diagnosis and management of newborn bilirubin.
  • WellSheet: Takes machine learning and natural language processing to prioritize relevant information during a patient visit.

All winners receive a $15,000 prize and move on to Phase 2, where the apps themselves, not merely the plans, will be evaluated.

On July 21, HHS Secretary Sylvia M. Burwell announced $36 million in funding for health IT support in health center organizations across the country. The money will fund 50 Health Center Controlled Networks (HCCNs), which redesign practices to integrate services, optimize patient outcomes, and negotiate managed care contracts.

These HCCNs also help health centers participate in the Federal Health Information Technology Strategic Plan through adopting EHRs, enhancing data collection and analysis, and improving population health.

“Health Center Controlled Networks are a key tool in providing quality primary care to medically underserved communities,” said Burwell. “By using these networks, individual health centers can work together to share resources, leverage buying power, and improve access to health information technology, leading to a better care experience for vulnerable populations.”

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Robin Tiberio
Robin Tiberio
Robin Tiberio is a Staff Writer for MeriTalk covering Health IT.