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ONC unveils plan for putting patients at center of health IT

By Kyle Murphy, PhD

Patient-centered care is a popular expression among those trying to transform healthcare through the adoption of health IT systems, but how close to the center are patients actually? That is the question being raised by the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC).

In a recent post on Health IT Buzz, Director of the Office of Policy and Planning Jodi Daniel, JD, MPH, has revealed the ONC’s goal of empowering patients to take an active role in their care through the use of information and technology by 2020. As Daniel notes, the ONC has published a issue brief highlighting its Person @ Center movement with the intention of expanding the dialogue about patient-centered care.

“A little over a year ago, we embarked on an effort to look to a long term future, where health IT and communications technology could support people in managing their own health and partnering in their health care,” she writes. “We engaged visionaries and subject matter experts to help us develop a policy framework for putting the person more at the center of their own health and health care, enabled by health IT. We wanted to set aspirational goals and some milestones along the way so that federal and private actors can all move toward the same end.”

So what will the Person @ Center vision entail? “The power of each individual is developed and unleashed to be active in managing their health and partnering in their health care, enabled by information and technology,” states the ONC.

Here are its core values as listed on the ONC website:

· Individual self-determination and the public good are both optimized.

· People can decide whether and how much to participate in managing their health and health care.

· People can access wellness and health care services enabled by technology that reflects their individual needs, values, and choices.

· Health care is a partnership between the patient, their caregivers, the care team, and supporting services.

· Information is shared, as appropriate, between the individual and all their care partners to enable informed, participatory decision-making as desired by the individual.

· Everyone who holds information about an individual exercises responsible information stewardship.

· Easily used and useful, trusted tools are available to support the person’s decision-making.

According to the ONC, the vision will be achieved by meeting three goals: increased self-management and prevention, seamless interaction with the health care system, and shared management of health care.

Based on the issue brief, related activities already underway will help it reach its goals, the most notable being the EHR Incentive Programs (i.e., meaningful use) and the Blue Button initiative that look to increase patient access to their health data through providers who have adopted the technology or participating in the appropriate program.

The challenge for the federal agency is using policy and other levers as a way of getting industry-wide buy-in:

Achieving the vision of enabling individuals to be active in managing their health and partnering in their health care is a complex undertaking that will occur over a long period of time. Yet it is  crucial to realizing the full benefits of health reform efforts. Changes in payment models and acceptance of technological advances will alter existing models of care. It is unknown if consumers and providers will fully embrace the resulting cultural shift. ONC is optimistic that stakeholders will rise to these challenges and will realize the vision for improved health outcomes.

Read the blog post and issue brief here and here.




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