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ONC plans consumer health IT campaign

WASHINGTON – The Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT will widen its efforts in mid-September to bring consumers into its orbit of tools and outreach with a campaign to get the public more involved in their health and health care.

ONC will develop activities to explain the value of health IT tools, such as electronic health records (EHRs), personal health records (PHRs) and mobile phone applications. 

ONC plans to include a variety of organizations that touch consumers to participate in the effort and to seek their ideas for how to involve patients, according to Lygeia Ricciardi, ONC's senior policy advisor for consumer e-health, at an Aug. 9 meeting of the Consumer Consortium on eHealth

The consortium consists of 180 organizations that share best practices and resources to involve consumers in their health care and health IT and is an initiative of the National eHealth Collaborative, a public/private partnership that promotes secure health information exchange.

Dr. Farzad Mostashari, the national health IT coordinator, emphasized the importance of patients' access to their information from their provider to share it with whomever they wish and control it as critical to engage patients.

Consumer e-health and patient benefits are incorporated into meaningful use of EHRs, health IT certification and health information exchange, but more attention on consumers is needed.

"We need to have a focused, targeted strategy around consumer e-health," he said. And that starts with the data. "The data is what unlocks both patient self-management and patient-centered care and changing that dynamic where it's okay to ask for your own record and to be engaged that way," Mostashari said.

It also unlocks innovations in services and mobile applications that can build on top of that data.

Under meaningful use, patients can receive an electronic copy of their information within three days of their request. In recommendations for stage 2, patients will be able to view and download their information with the click of a button. 

Engagement of the provider with the patient is a critical part of meaningful use to share their information, give patients after-care summaries, send them reminders and education materials in addition to accessing their record and obtaining a copy if they want it.

[See also: ONC wants comments about metadata standards for EHRs. ]

Part of ONC's strategy is to support a shift in attitude and enable consumers to take action with their information, Ricciardi said. Health IT can play an important role.

"When you have the information, you have a lot more to stand on in asking the questions or suggesting a different possibility or treatment course," she explained.

Many consumers want to know how to access their health information, but some do not understand the importance of having their data or what they could do with it, according to some consortium members.

Many consumers do not own computers. But "given a reason to use the Internet," such as to receive information about their health, individuals will seek out and stop at a neighborhood Internet café to retrieve their data, according to Gregory Thornton, CEO of Competech Inc., which has developed a smart-card driven portable medical record and patient portal.

Other consumers and caregivers are already using health IT in home health care, such as remote monitoring, mobile apps and telehealth, said Latoya Thomas, associate director for Home Care Technology Association of America. 

ONC will develop animated videos to explain the importance of health IT. ONC also has a preview of a website that will in the future offer stories, videos and information for "putting the I in IT," and how tools can assist consumers manage their health in their daily life. Additionally, ONC is seeking more ideas for content from consumer groups like the e-health consortium.

Added Wednesday, August 10th, 2011 by Government Health IT

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