Industry experts: Expand patient access, education to personal health info

Patients increasingly have access to their health records, and that means finding ways to make access easier and ensure patients know how to use the information, according to panelists at the Consumer Health IT Summit in the District of Columbia on Monday.

The summit, held by the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT, focused on the consumer role in healthcare, which continues to grow.

Laura McCrary (pictured), executive director of Kansas' statewide health information exchange, KHIN, said the state is continuing to expand its HIE and EHR access. Currently, about 5 million patients are participating in KHIN. In addition, last October, the state began providing free, personal health records for all patients who received care in Kansas, she said.

In phase 2 of its HIE implementation, McCrary said the state will take the information from the exchange and deliver it directly to the patient. Patients will be able to receive notices in real time that there is new information in their record, she said.

Mark Heaney, CEO of Get Real Health, said that for EHR developers, the best way to support patient access to the records is to "deliver things on normal devices." He pointed to a decline in PC use and growth in mobile and tablet use.

In fact, the use of mobile EHRs is growing in the industry, FierceMobileHealthcare previously reported.

The patient also needs to understand what all that data in the record means. Patients need "context and explanation and education," Heaney said.

"Not many people wake up in the morning and say 'now I want to look at my medical record.' But there are plenty of people who wake up in the morning thinking 'I want to be healthier,'" he said.

Gilbert Salinas, who spoke of his dual role as a patient with chronic illnesses and a fellow at the Institute for Healthcare Improvement, said it is important to "pull away from asking the question 'What is the matter with you' to 'what matters to you.'"

He also added that one myth about patient data access is that people living in underserved communities will not use the technology, even if they're given the right tools.

"If you give patients what they need... they'll make the right decisions to keep themselves healthy," he said. "I never met a patient that didn't want to be healthy."

While acting as a fellow at IHI in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Salinas said he would be miles away from his health providers. He had a choice: Go with a different provider, go a year without healthcare or learn to redesign his own care. He chose the latter option.

"Everything was done online and through phone call communication," he said. "What were the results? I looked back to 2008 and charted all of my information ... I've never been healthier since 2008."

Tim Burdick, chief medical information officer at OCHIN, touted the importance of clinical decision support tools not just for the provider, but also the patient.

"We can use clinical decision support tools that are patient-based and that will outline their care gaps, immunizations that are overdue, prescriptions that haven't been picked up," he said.