Health IT still defining HIE consumer engagement

Healthcare providers participating in health information exchanges are getting closer to determining how they will use health IT to engage with patients, but the process still is in the early stages, the National eHealth Collaborative concluded after analyzing results of a June survey.

"Progress is being made, but a significant amount of work remains to be done in order to get closer to realizing the benefits of consumer engagement with health IT," the collaborative said in a survey summary.

For the most part, respondents are still defining consumer engagement and defining objectives, developing engagement tactics and trying to figure out how they measure success, according to the findings.

Ultimately, the federal government will have a say in measuring success, since the proposed rule for Stage 2 of Meaningful Use for electronic health records highlights consumer engagement.

In other words, providers that don't demonstrate their EHRs adequately engage consumers won't qualify for Medicaid and Medicare incentives.

The National eHealth Collaborative survey, sent to participants in the NeHC Health Information Exchange Learning Network, showed that 53 percent of respondents deemed consumer engagement as high or very high on their priority list.

Higher priorities included improving health outcomes, delivering information to patients, lowering healthcare costs and enabling consumers to take more responsibility for their health, which can be considered a by-product of consumer engagement.

One of the problems in nailing down success in consumer engagement may be that providers define consumer engagement in a variety of ways, according to the survey. The most-cited definitions included patient education, and online patient access to health data such as lab results and the ability to refill prescriptions online. At the bottom was online purchasing of health insurance.

Some early examples of consumer engagement seem to be working. The Department of Veterans Affairs, for example, reported in December that half a million veterans and Medicare patients had downloaded their medical records using the VA Blue Button interface. The Blue Button personal health record was introduced in 2010.

To learn more:
- read the report (.pdf)
- see the summary

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