ONC Encourages Emergence Of E-Patients

Posted on February 15, 2013 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare consultant and analyst with 20 years of industry experience. Zieger formerly served as editor-in-chief of FierceHealthcare.com and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also contributed content to hundreds of healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. Contact her at @ziegerhealth on Twitter or visit her site at Zieger Healthcare.

Throughout the Meaningful Use rollout, there’s been discussion of how to best use all of these new health IT toys to get patients more engaged in their care.  But as far as I know, the following is the first time ONC has officially launched an initiative to cultivate the emergence of health IT-smart e-patients.

In a new article in Health Affairs, ONC national coordinator for  health IT Farzad Mostashari has shared plans to use health IT to reach patients and encourage their involvement with their care. The ONC is already working with 17 Beacon communities to test ideas such as text-messaging for diabetes risk assessment, but the idea now is to expand things to much higher level.

ONC now hopes to encourage patients to participate in e-patient activities such as secure e-mail messaging with doctors, use of EMRs that patients can add to and transmit, as well as use of mobile health apps for chronic disease monitoring and wellness promotion, reports Politico.com.

I’m excited to see ONC jump on this bandwagon enthusiastically. While there is an e-patient movement afoot, and a growing list of doctors interested in “participatory medicine,” it’s unlikely that the run-of-the-mill patient with few self-advocacy or technical skills would get involved on their own.

And the truth is, if ONC truly wants to build a nation of engaged patients, Meaningful Use requirements are too modest by far. Sure, there’s new requirements afoot that will make it easier for patients to e-mail doctors and transmit their health information, and that’s fine. But the truth is that few patients will take advantage of these features without a great degree of encouragement.

As something of an e-patient myself, I’m eager to see the movement blossom, as I believe it’s good for both the clinician and ordinary citizens receiving medical care. Let’s see how much effort Dr. Mostashari and his team put into cultivating patient engagement.