In a third post-HITECH viewpoint, UCSF directors call for a renewed focus on patients

Patient wearable doc tablet
USCF officials say patient data is critical to “harnessing the full potential of health IT." (Getty/powerofforever)

Adding to an ongoing discussion about how the healthcare industry should build on widespread EHR adoption driven by the HITECH Act, informatics and digital policy experts say “winning the hearts and minds of patients” is a critical piece of the interoperability puzzle moving forward.

Three directors at the University of California, San Francisco’s Center for Digital Health Innovation and UCSF Department of Medicine Chair Robert Wachter, M.D., point to policy initiatives and EHR certification criteria that have gradually provided patients with more access to their health data. The percentage of patients with online access to their medical record has doubled, and the latest standards from the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT require mobile access using APIs.

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While doctors are understandably frustrated with EHR usability, patient access remains a significant and important challenge, the authors wrote in a blog post. Widespread EHR integration has not allowed patients to participate in shared care planning or integrate their own data collected outside the health system—data that is critical to “harnessing the full potential of health IT."

“Imagine if you bought cable television service, but the programs were not available unless you drove to the cable provider’s office to view them there,” they wrote. “Or you deposited your money at the bank, but could only access it by making a withdrawal in person at the bank branch during business hours. The shared care and care planning we all seek for better care, better health, and better value require that we focus on the patient’s perspective as well as the doctor’s perspective.”

Last month, four former national coordinators authored a perspective in the New England Journal of Medicine pushed for continued collaboration between the private and public sector paired with federal guidance to drive interoperability and usability. Executives in the private sector, meanwhile, argued that “dramatically simplified” federal requirements would improve innovation by returning control to the private sector.