DeSalvo touts interoperability, Blue Button at Consumer Health IT Summit

The Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT jumped into National Health IT Week in the District of Columbia by placing the focus on the consumers' role in their own healthcare.

National Coordinator for Health IT Karen DeSalvo (pictured) kicked off the 2014 Consumer Health IT Summit by speaking about the advancements in the industry, such as Blue Button, which allows patients to secure online access to their electronic records, and the commitment to interoperability.

Interoperability is ONC's top priority, according to DeSalvo. "[Interoperability is] a way that individuals' health information is easily accessible to them when and where they need it," she said.

Consumers themselves play an increasing role in interoperability, she added. They ensure that the right information is available at the right time.

DeSalvo also announced that there will soon be a new Blue Button campaign, "that's gonna really explode." The campaign will focus on consumers' access to their personal health information. A new Blue Button toolkit was unveiled at the event.

Patrick Conway, deputy administrator for innovation and quality, and chief medical officer for the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, also spoke about the importance of patient engagement in healthcare as well as quality measures.

CMS now engages patients and families in all of its quality measurement efforts, Conway said.

He echoed DeSalvo's comments about CMS' enthusiasm for Blue Button, which he described as "the power to share information with beneficiaries." The agency works closely with the Department of Veterans Affairs, Department of Defense and Office of Personnel Management and the employee benefits program to make sure Blue Button becomes as comprehensive and as usable as possible.

Conway also spoke about CMS' innovation center and awards focused on patient engagement, including mobile technology, telehealth and shared decision-making. In addition, the center will look at potential, broader payment models for payers and providers that directly link beneficiary engagement and factors such as care decision-making.

HIPAA also was addressed at the summit's opening, with Jocelyn Samuels, director of the Office for Civil Rights, speaking on patient privacy protections.

"We've recently strengthened patients' right to access in two important ways: First, patients now have an express right to gains access to their EMRs; second, patients and their personal representatives soon will have greater rights to get their lab test results directly from the laboratories rather than their providers," she said.

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