It’s just not enough for patients to have access to all of their electronic Personal Health Information in the digital health environment of EHR meaningful use. There is an important reality of accountability in the process of ongoing communication with patients regarding the implications of all this data. While teaching moments are possible within the clinic during those face-to-face interactions between physician and patient, the on-demand access of patient information significantly expands this dialogue. While a cornerstone of this patient access to her information is an effort to empower her in the healthcare experience, it is also important to empower a fully engaged clinic staff in this dialogue as well.
Who is going to answer all of the questions from patients? What is the defined expectation for response time from the clinic to the patient? Will all of the data be available to the patient or only that reviewed by the physician? These are just a few of the questions of accountability in the process of care that coincide with the access to patient information. For clinics where the physician holds the sole responsibility for the tasks associated with all of these questions, the backlog of information traditionally represented by a stack of paper files will only become more overwhelming.
It’s an important conversation in this context of EHR meaningful use. While there is real pressure on physicians to meet the criteria of meaningful use, the real stakeholders are patients, and they do not share the same pressure to comply. However, this is an important opportunity to lift the veil on all of this data for the patient. This is a bigger dialogue that requires a larger participation of a fully engaged clinic staff to facilitate the critical guidance and insight for the patient as needed will this myriad of data. This dialogue is about the individual context of the data for the patient’s education, but it may also be about addressing apprehension or some other emotions that arise from her own interpretation of the data.
The interaction among clinic and patient about ePHI is one of shared accountability. But it is important to recognize the gap in knowledge between the medical professional and the patient when each are presented with this data. Access to this data brings with it an important responsibility of being receptive and even anticipating questions from patients among the fully engaged clinic staff. It is a dialogue that can easily demand a more timely response than the physician alone can sustain for her patient population in the community. Those who support the physician in the clinic who also understand how they may participate appropriately in this expanding dialogue of the patient experience will be able to translate EHR meaningful use into terms that truly matter to the patient as a stakeholder.
Robert Green is the author of Community Healthcare: Finding a Common Ground with New Expectations in Healthcare. Through his physician client relationships, Bob has gained substantial insight regarding the daily challenges that medical professionals and their staffs face, such as regulatory issues, financial management, and clinical collaboration through the use of health IT. His process of making both interpersonal and purposeful connections within the organization results in improved employee performance and confidence and enhanced client experience.