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Highlights

To prevent medical errors, reduce costs, improve quality, and produce greater value for health care expenditures, President Bush has called for the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to develop and implement a strategic plan to guide the nationwide implementation of health information technology (IT) in both the public and private health care sectors. The Departments of Defense (DOD) and Veterans Affairs (VA), along with other countries, have already taken steps to improve health care delivery and administration by implementing IT solutions. GAO was asked to provide an overview of HHS's recent efforts to develop a national health IT strategy for realizing the President's vision, and to identify lessons learned from DOD's, VA's, and other countries' experiences in implementing health IT.

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Recommendations

Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Department of Health and Human Services 1. As a result of our work, the Secretary of Health and Human Services should establish detailed plans and milestones for each phase of the framework for strategic action and take steps to ensure that those plans are followed and milestones are met.
Closed - Implemented
In June 2008, the Department of Health and Human Services' Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT published a federal health IT strategic plan that included strategic goals for advancing and coordinating federal health IT efforts. These goals are consistent with those identified in the department's 2004 framework for strategic action. The plan also outlined measures and milestones for completing key strategies related to each of the goals. Further, in February 2009, we requested and received documentation from HHS that described in greater detail how the department intended to implement its strategic plan. This documentation included a detailed schedule and near-term milestones for all of the projects the Office of the National Coordinator had underway to implement the strategies outlined in the plan. Also included was information on a database and tool that the office built to track the projects back to the plan's strategies and goals, as well as longer term milestones for completing operational plans beyond 2009. The development of the strategic plan and the tool to track ongoing projects to the strategies, goals, and milestones of the strategic plan, should provide HHS with key mechanisms needed to support successful implementation of its health IT strategy, and enable ONC to ensure the plans are followed. By taking these actions, HHS will be better positioned to lead the nation's efforts in developing and implementing a nationwide infrastructure for exchanging health information amongst health care providers.

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