Farzad Mostashari and colleagues from the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, lay out their "Three A's" strategy to support consumer engagement through e-Health in a Health Affairs article.
Those A's: access, action and attitudes.
Mostashari & Co. acknowledge "the full potential of consumer e-health is far from realized and may not even yet be fully understood," yet they believe that digital tools such as those that have transformed banking, travel planning and shopping also can help improve care and truly put patients at the center.
They say that improving access might be the area where they have the most influence. Through the Medicare and Medicaid EHR Incentive Programs and the Blue Button Pledge Program, providers are adopting electronic records, setting up patient portals and offering other tools allowing patients access to their records and more ways to collaborate with their healthcare providers.
Among the ways the ONC is working to enable consumers to take action is by supporting developers who build e-Health tools. It issues periodic challenges, such as the just-completed design contest to improve EHRs. It also has funded pilot programs in 17 Beacon Communities to implement and evaluates tools such as the text-messaging tool Txt4Health aimed at diabetes patients.
The article also calls for a shift in attitudes, toward a less hierarchical, more collaborative partnership between the patient and healthcare provider.
"Patients need to feel comfortable requesting electronic access to their health records, asking providers questions, sharing their own health knowledge, and weighing in on treatment options. A cultural shift--among patients and providers--is necessary to support these kinds of behavior," the authors state.
It cites as an example a recent campaign from the Office for Civil Rights in the Department of Health and Human Services promoting awareness of citizens' rights to access their healthcare information in the format they choose. As this plan is put into place, more research will be necessary to measure and track its effectiveness, the authors say.
An array of efforts are under way to promote the use of technology to further patient collaboration with their doctors to improve their health, including email, social media and patient portals. The trick will be convincing both sides that it's worth the effort.