Health IT has made great strides over the years, and a lot of this progress is directly tied to government incentive programs. To move these efforts even further toward interoperability, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) outlined a new strategic plan for 2015 to 2020. IT efforts such as these could have a noted effect on electronic medical billing, patient data sharing and other aspects of health IT in the next few years.

Interoperability at the center of the plan
The plan aims to work across public and private sectors to properly access, collect, share and use health data to improve IT efforts, bolster community and public health and create more robust research efforts through technology. According to an HHS press release on Dec. 8, the plan is open for comments from both private and public officials. This strategic plan was created in context to the highly anticipated Nationwide Interoperability Roadmap, which is slated for completion in early 2015. Together, these efforts will shape the way that patient data sharing and EHR usage will proceed.

"Over the past five years, our nation has experienced a remarkable transformation in the collection, sharing and use of electronic health information. Updating the Federal Health IT Strategic Plan 2015-2020 has given us a chance to reflect on our health IT journey," Dr. Karen DeSalvo, the national coordinator for health IT, explained in the plan's introduction.

DeSalvo's comments are indeed accurate. According to Healthcare IT News, more than 400,000 eligible hospitals and practice professionals have joined in these efforts to streamlined EHR adoption through incentive programs. Now that the digitization of patient records has become commonplace across the U.S., federal officials are now looking for better ways to make these systems more interoperable.

Healthcare IT News noted five main goals outlined in the new plan, the first two revolving around the increase of patient data collection and patient privacy. The remaining three goals are centered on bolstering health care delivery, working to improve public and community health efforts and using interoperable platforms to advance research fields, scientific knowledge and innovation.

Although there are major changes within the industry when it comes to health IT, it's clear that digitization for physician billing services and other important medical matters isn't going away anytime soon.