Electronic Health Records

Adoption & Implementation News

Electronic Data Key for Patient Engagement Initiatives

By Vera Gruessner

Patient engagement initiatives within the healthcare industry are moving past the patient portal, as pilot programs called OpenNotes allow patients to view their medical doctor’s notes taken during the visit. The latest version of the initiative even allows patients to comment and correct any information available in the physician records.

The New York Times reported on one patient that followed his own medical records and healthcare data with rigor. Steven Keating, a young doctoral student from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Media Lab, had a brain scan eight years ago that found an anomaly and required monitoring over the years.

In a follow-up scan three years later, no issues were uncovered. However, based on his own research, Keating knew the problem was located near the olfactory center of the brain and, when he began smelling vinegar, he knew these were “smell seizures.” Three weeks after conducting an MRI, surgeons removed a cancerous tumor from his brain.

Medical experts believe this type of patient engagement and self-education can be gained when patients have full access to their own healthcare records. These type of patients are thought to be better able to stick to their prescription drug regimen and even identify early symptoms of disease.

Today, more and more hospitals and physician practices are adopting patient portals to meet Stage 2 Meaningful Use requirements as well as offer patients easy access to their medical information. Through the OpenNotes program, more patients are integrating wellness goals in their everyday life, taking their medications on time, and gaining a better understanding of their chronic diseases.

Currently, more than 5 million patients have received open access to their physician notes through these pilot programs. Nonetheless, Keating told the news source that obtaining one’s own medical information still has its share of barriers.

“You can get (access to data), but the burden is always on the patient. And it is scattered across many different silos of patient data,” Keating said.

Federal agencies are providing policies to support patient engagement initiatives and access to medical data in order to overcome these barriers. For instance, the Stage 3 Meaningful Use proposed rule sets forward a key objective for boosting patient engagement initiatives.

Health IT Now, a coalition of physician and patient groups that advocates health information technology, finds the Stage 3 proposed rule and the 2015 edition health IT certification criteria favorable, especially regarding its patient engagement initiatives.

“These changes are important steps forward. The Patient API change in and of itself is elegant. It allows patients to control more of their information while expanding interoperability,” Joel White, Executive Director of Health IT Now, stated in a press release. “We also support reducing burdens on healthcare providers, the folks who have to implement these changes. We believe HHS could go one step further and only approve measures that can be reported electronically. We need to scrap paper and pen in the health IT program.”

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