The accelerated pace of innovation in digital health, record-breaking investments in the sector and even some of the technology developed to navigate the pandemic wouldn’t have been possible without groundwork laid by The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC). And there’s probably no one who understands ONC’s past, present and future role better than Steve Posnack.
Steve is a fixture at ONC, joining a year after it was formed in 2004 and serving for the past 16 years in various capacities through four administrations. Since 2019, Steve has served as Deputy National Coordinator, playing an integral role in policy development, technology initiatives and investments, budget prioritization and industry-wide coordination.
In this episode of Healthcare is Hard, Steve gives a background and history of ONC, explaining how it fits into the Department of Health and Human Services and the overall role it plays in the federal government. He shares insights that anyone in the healthcare innovation ecosystem should understand and his conversation with Keith Figlioli covers a number of topics including:
- Wins and regrets of ONC. As someone who has been at ONC for nearly its entire history, Steve has a rare vantagepoint to reflect on initiatives that have gone smoothly and lessons-learned for those that haven’t. For example, he discusses successes and challenges of Meaningful Use, recognizing its imperfections, but all the innovation that it made possible as well.
- Cybersecurity in healthcare. Steve entered ONC after earning a dual master’s degree in cybersecurity and health policy from Johns Hopkins University, giving him a unique skillset to address the security issues with healthcare IT that are becoming increasingly more critical. He talks about the need for better cyber hygiene industry-wide and shares thoughts about meeting that goal. But he doesn’t predict any federal mandates for security in the near future.
- Improving data quality. According to Steve, poor data quality is a sore point for public health professionals and an area where the private sector can help in order to benefit everyone. He says the people tasked with tracking and consolidating data spend precious time doing “data detective work,” and it’s been especially challenging through the pandemic. This requires looking upstream to know where data is coming from and where it’s going to figure out how gaps occur and how to address them.
- The future role for ONC. Taking all of ONC’s accomplishments into account, Keith and Steve discuss if there’s more work to be done, or if the public sector should start taking over. From Steve’s perspective, there’s a lot for the private sector to build on, but he also says there’s a lot the industry is still asking ONC to push forward. As just two examples, he talks about how work around the social determinants of health and the convergence of clinical and research operations still need broader coordination.
To hear Steve and Keith talk about these topics and more, listen to this episode of Healthcare is Hard.