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ONC Takes on Patient Engagement in HIT

Gienna Shaw, for HealthLeaders Media, October 6, 2011

Hospitals, health systems, and physician practices are working toward achieving meaningful use by investing in electronic health records and other health information technologies. But one of the "five pillars" of meaningful is to engage patients and their families in electronic health data.

The Stage One requirements of the HITECH Act, already in place, include the relatively simple tasks of sharing discharge instructions and providing patient education. But in future stages providers will be asked to do more -- such as communicating with patients electronically to help them manage chronic conditions and to intervene before they require emergency care.

Last week, Farzad Mostashari, MD, ONC's national coordinator for health information technology conceded that the office has not paid enough attention to patients in developing HIT policies and programs.

The work order is the latest in a series of moves to change that -- and to help providers meet this challenging aspect of meaningful use regulations. ONC has launched a website, healthit.gov, with information about health IT for consumers and healthcare professionals. It also launched a Consumer Health IT Pledge initiative for organizations that participate commit to making it easier for patients to access their personal health data and to educate patients as to why it is important to do so.

The federal government is also putting resources into the Blue Button Initiative, a platform that designed to make it easier for patients to download their medical records.

But there are still a number of challenges, ONC notes, including concerns about privacy and accuracy of the data.

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2 comments on "ONC Takes on Patient Engagement in HIT"


Barbara Wilson (10/7/2011 at 1:33 PM)
Thank you, Naomi. Well said and very true.

Naomi Giroux (10/7/2011 at 10:15 AM)
I have two points to make. First is a review of how HIPPA Regulations are being used to keep patients and their families out of the center of information and decision making. Often as patients and their advocates/caregivers try to get enough information to make decisions they are stonewalled. Electronic records could be used as yet another barrier for consumers. Second, I'd suggest more review of the studies about the lack of information sharing be conducted based on your statement. "There is little research as to whether patients are adequately informed to understand the choices they make with respect to sharing health information, ONC says, while studies show that efforts to collect informed consent for treatment from patients are often inadequate and have little educational value."