ONC Town Hall: Patient engagement in HIT requires a provider push

For healthcare reform to succeed, patients must play a greater role in their own healthcare, including accessing and using electronic personal health records, Lygeia Ricciardi, senior policy advisor for Consumer e-Health at the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services said at the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT's Town Hall meeting held at this week's mHealth Summit.

But audience members at the meeting said ONC won't succeed in its patient engagement push without help from providers and others outside of healthcare.

The Town Hall meetings are part of ongoing efforts to inform the healthcare community about ONC's efforts to engage patients in their own personal health information. It's not just about getting the data into patients' hands, Ricciardi said, but encouraging them to use that data to facilitate a broad range of activities, including coordinating care among multiple providers, strengthening patient-physician relationships, and managing their own health.

Ricciardi outlined a three-part plan to encourage more effective engagement: Providing secure, timely access to personal health information; providing tools and services to help consumers use that data in a meaningful way; and shifting attitudes about doctor-patient roles so that relationships are more of a partnership.

ONC also announced two new efforts at the meeting:

  • A crowd-sourced video challenge that will encourage patients to share their stories about how they used health IT to improve their health or to control a chronic disease such as diabetes. The contest will be rolled out in 2012 and the office hopes to select 50 winning videos.
  • A short animated film that will explain the value of health IT to the public--specifying why patients should care and what tools can be used to access personal health data.

ONC said it is testing different consumer-oriented messaging, including an appeal to patients to choose doctors who use health IT in order to improve convenience and safety. However, some audience members suggested that message could be too adversarial.

One alternative suggestion called for ONC to instead encourage patients to ask their providers about how they use health IT--a proposition aimed at maintaining patient-provider trust. Another audience member said that getting consumers engaged in their healthcare data is a task that requires help from organizations outside of healthcare, such as community, grass roots, and advocacy groups.

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