HHS has proposed a $20 million initiative in the President's FY 2001 budget dealing with Health Informatics: Improving Information for Decision Making. The ultimate goal of this initiative is to improve patient care and health outcomes through the efficient and effective use of data. The initiative will strengthen the information base for decisionmaking and action in health through critical new crosscutting investment in health informatics approaches and applications.

The initiative will allow HHS to improve integration of the broad range of available health data and information. It will also allow HHS to assume a greater national leadership role in the establishment and adoption of health data standards to improve the uniformity and ease of transmission of health care data while protecting the confidentiality of health information.

The activities included in this cross-cutting initiative build upon informatics-oriented investments proposed by the individual agencies to ensure that HHS realizes the full potential of the new Agency investments. The initiative reflects two general needs for cross-cutting activities:

  1. funding to provide cross-cutting strategy, oversight, guidance, and coordination of Department-wide activities related to enhancing information for decision-making, and
  2. new and innovative informatics activities that address emerging health information needs – exploratory research and development funds necessary to guide, shape, and amplify results of Agency investments.

The initiative provides an investment of $20 million which will initially be located within the Office of the Secretary (OS) budget, under the direction the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation (ASPE), in coordination with the HHS Chief Information Officer (CIO).

In total, the Initiative includes nine cross-cutting investment themes that are designed to 1) develop informatics-oriented partnerships with the health care industry, and the research and public health communities, 2) leverage agency health informatics and data investments, and 3) ensure effective Departmental collaboration and coordination on this Initiative.

The crosscutting investments planned in FY 2001 will support the following themes:

Accordingly, the Initiative provides support for leadership activities as well as research and development, evaluation and dissemination of cross-cutting approaches, techniques and tools for protecting the confidentiality and security of health information across HHS, and in partnership with industry and the research and public health communities. Examples include the development of standards and tools for disclosure avoidance, and research on methods of encryption, de-identification, and other privacy enhancing technologies.

Much of this effort will be internet based, and it will build upon and complement existing Agency activities with links to all Agency Web sites.

Rationale for the Budget Request

A broad array of stakeholders, including health care consumers, providers and payers, Federal, State, and local policy-makers, and the public health workforce has critical needs for comprehensive, coordinated, and accessible health information. Health decision-making requires information spanning a range of sources from the local to the national level and covering a spectrum of core areas such as health care financing, health delivery systems, public health surveillance and health care quality, outcomes and effectiveness. Sound information is essential for effective public health action in response to important threats, constructive program evaluation, quality improvement, individual choices in selecting care, and assessment and management of new medical technologies. HHS plays an essential role in creating health information for decision-making, by developing and promoting strong health information systems, as a partner with other health informatics entities, and as a leader in health information and informatics policy.

The Health Informatics Initiative encompasses a powerful set of crosscutting and agency specific investments in informatics and information systems. The initiative includes HHS efforts aimed at building the next generation of health information systems, developing, adopting and implementing national data standards, assuring secure electronic transmission of health information, strengthening health information confidentiality protection, enhancing the capacity of federal, State and local partners to participate in the next generation health information systems, promoting secure and confidential electronic data interchange within the public health and health care systems, providing access to relevant health data and information, and developing improved methods and tools.

The Initiative also creates essential cross-cutting investments that build on and amplify the Agency proposals, and ensure that HHS's wealth of health information and information systems resources are coordinated and prioritized to enable HHS to enhance its role as a leader in the development, use, and dissemination of health information. All IT investments in this Initiative will be developed in accordance with IT capital planning principles, in compliance with the Clinger-Cohen Act, and in consultation with the Agency Chief Information Officer and reviewed by the Agency Information Technology Investment Review Board.

As we begin the new century, our efforts to solve pressing public health and health care problems will greatly benefit from the availability of essential and accessible health information, and the enhanced benefits in efficiency and effectiveness that health information technology can bring to the health sector. At the Federal level, and with State and local partners and the private sector, HHS has a crucial role to play in helping the nation better address its health information needs. The Initiative provides crucial health informatics investments to ensure that we have the right information and that we use it effectively to improve the health of the Nation.