The Beginning of an ONC Adventure

Hello! My name is Jessica Dawson, and I am a project coordinator over at the Innovation Hub. You may have seen me around the hospital interviewing staff members, asking for patient feedback, and facilitating design classes. If we haven’t met, feel free to swing by the Hub and say hello!  

When I am not working in the Innovation Hub or trying to finish my bachelors at school, I intern downtown over at the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC). The ONC is a part of the federal government within the Department of Health and Human Services focused on supporting the adoption of health information technology and the promotion of nationwide health information interoperability to improve health and care.  

The beginning of a new blog post series

This blog post will be first in a new Innovation Hub blog post series about health information technology. This series will focus on the changing landscape of health information technology and what that means for Sibley medical providers in the near future. I am excited to share some of what I learn during my time at ONC and some insights into how ONC and Sibley can work together to improve the health and wellbeing of patients. 

How it all started

As a pre-med undergraduate student, I spent well over 200 hours shadowing physicians and RNs from a variety of disciplines at Sibley and at hospitals around the country. In order to get a well-rounded perspective, one of the questions I would ask each medical provider is “what is your least favorite aspect of your job?” The answer was always a variation of “I do not like how much administrative computer work I need to do.” My follow up was always: WHY? Tell me more. Over the years, I learned about difficulties of non-interoperable data, user un-friendly interfaces, constantly evolving programs, and the sheer volume of computer work. 

Last year, I interviewed a Sibley ER physician and asked “what percentage of your daily work shift is in front of a computer?” I was shocked to hear the physician frankly explain it ranged to about 50-60% of his day! 

There is no doubt that we live in a digital age. This technological and societal shift has caused healthcare to change in a variety of ways with new legislation, new technology, and new models of care. Consumer wants, needs, and expectations are evolving. 

Despite our rapid progression into the digital age, it seems that medical information systems still have much to be desired. One of the problems that electronic health systems across America face is the lack of interoperable data. 

Suppose a patient typically goes to hospital A for medical care and then needs to go to hospital B for care. It is very time-consuming and challenging to share medical information between providers due to differences in electronic health systems and a lack of standardized data delivery. The ability to easily share patient data between providers has potential benefits such as a reduction in repeated tests and diagnostic errors from incomplete histories. 

 The task to create health data interoperability is no easy feat. Stakeholders such as hospital systems like SIbley, electronic health record software publishers, health IT non-profits, and federal agencies such as the ONC are coming together to create solutions. In the coming months, I will go in-depth into the challenges in the health information technology industry, how the ONC is working to encourage solutions such as an industry standard of data sharing, and most importantly why this is so relevant for Sibley employees! 

I welcome you to join me on my adventure at the federal government! Look out for next week’s blog post! 

Thank you for reading! 
Jessica Dawson