How Government is Driving Patient Engagement

As discussed both here and elsewhere, as Meaningful Use goes forward, increasing levels of patient engagement are required.  The latest issue of the journal Health Affairs is dedicated entirely to the idea of promoting patient engagement throughout healthcare. Unsurprisingly, the recent efforts to promote greater use of technology and Electronic Health Records come into play. One article is written by members of the Office of Consumer eHealth, part of the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC). They discuss their understanding of why this engagement is important and where we are now.

They then turn to the current federal strategy for increasing consumer engagement with e-health. A major focus is the “Three A’s” strategy developed by the ONC to fulfill its goal to empower people to improve their health and health care through health information technology. The three parts of the strategy are to increase patients’ Access to their health information; to enable consumers to take Action with that information; and to shift Attitudes so that patients and providers think and act as partners in managing health and health care using health information technology.

The implementation of each of these is just starting, but several things are clear: Access alone, even if it were universal which it will never be, is insufficient and that success in this area requires a partnership between patients/providers/government/EHR providers and others in a way that is unique in health care. A “cultural shift” is required on the part of patients and providers. For example, they say  “patients need to feel comfortable requesting electronic access to their health records, asking providers questions, sharing their own health knowledge, and weighing in on treatment options. “ Successful implementation in this area requires acknowledging barriers that may exist at many levels and trying to study and reduce them. This work is just beginning. Going forward, we must address these barriers to a world of greater patient engagement in healthcare.

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