Hospitals, health systems, and physician practices are working toward achieving meaningful use by investing in electronic health records and other health information technologies. But one of the "five pillars" of meaningful is to engage patients and their families in electronic health data.
The Stage One requirements of the HITECH Act, already in place, include the relatively simple tasks of sharing discharge instructions and providing patient education. But in future stages providers will be asked to do more -- such as communicating with patients electronically to help them manage chronic conditions and to intervene before they require emergency care.
Last week, Farzad Mostashari, MD, ONC's national coordinator for health information technology conceded that the office has not paid enough attention to patients in developing HIT policies and programs.
The work order is the latest in a series of moves to change that -- and to help providers meet this challenging aspect of meaningful use regulations. ONC has launched a website, healthit.gov, with information about health IT for consumers and healthcare professionals. It also launched a Consumer Health IT Pledge initiative for organizations that participate commit to making it easier for patients to access their personal health data and to educate patients as to why it is important to do so.
The federal government is also putting resources into the Blue Button Initiative, a platform that designed to make it easier for patients to download their medical records.
But there are still a number of challenges, ONC notes, including concerns about privacy and accuracy of the data.