Weakening patient role in MU would be a 'missed opportunity'

The public and vendors of consumer healthcare applications should urge the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC) to retain the patient engagement provisions of the Meaningful Use Stage 2 criteria, despite the efforts of some healthcare providers to weaken them. That's what David Chase, CEO of Avado.com, a patient portal and "relationship management" company, suggests in a post on The Health Care Blog.

"The Office of the National Coordinator (ONC) could catalyze an unprecedented wave of innovation with a stroke of a pen by strong inclusion of patient engagement requirements in the Meaningful Use requirements," Chase writes.

While Stage 1 of Meaningful Use primarily motivated providers to work with their electronic health record vendors, Chase notes, Stage 2 could "level the playing field for health tech startups" by forcing providers to pay attention to the proliferation of mHealth apps.

"Unfortunately, with little awareness of innovative health tech startups, providers and legacy vendors are pushing back against the requirements proposed by the ONC," Chase continues. "There is a major risk that the proposed requirements will be watered down based upon this feedback. What could be the biggest ever jumpstart to the health tech startup community could become a missed opportunity."

The pushback to which Chase refers is real. At a HIMSS Virtual Briefing on Meaningful Use Stage 2 in March, according to Healthcare Informatics, there was a discussion about how eligible professionals could be held accountable for ensuring that 10 percent of their patients view, download and/or share their health records. There have been other reports of opposition to this provision.

Other Stage 2 proposals that fall into the patient engagement category seem to be less controversial. They include making visit summaries available to 50 percent of patients within 24 hours of an encounter; providing electronic copies of health information to 50 percent of patients who ask for them; giving educational materials to 10 percent of patients; and sending reminders for preventive and follow-up care to 10 percent of patients seen within the past 24 months.

Nevertheless, Chase is collecting signatures on a petition "to support the increase of patient engagement requirements" in the Meaningful Use Stage 2 criteria. He also urges interested parties to send comments to the government before the May 7 deadline set by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

Not everyone agrees that the government can create a market with "the stroke of a pen." John Moore of Chilmark Research, for instance, attributes the relatively low adoption of mHealth apps so far to "a lack of solutions with proven clinical efficacy and few financial incentives to drive adoption." In other words, until physicians are reimbursed for going online with patients, most of them aren't going to do it.

To learn more:
- read Chase's post via The Health Care Blog
- see the Healthcare Informatics story
- check out Chilmark Research post

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