Electronic Health Records

Adoption & Implementation News

Provider EHR adoption is only one half of meaningful use

By Kyle Murphy, PhD

With the beginning of Stage 2 Meaningful Use approaching in several months for eligible hospitals, healthcare organizations participating in the EHR Incentive Programs will need to exceed thresholds for exchanging health information between providers and between providers and patients.

While health information exchange (HIE) should prove significant for ensuring care coordination and patient safety during transitions of care, it is likely to pale in comparison to the importance being place on patient engagement and patient access to electronic health information (e.g., using patient portals) as emphasized by the federal agencies behind meaningful use, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) and the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology. And recent news bears this out.

Yesterday, Health Tech Hatch announced its role as the official user testing platform for the Blue Button Patient Co-Design Challenge, the latest challenge put out by the ONC. The aim of this challenge is to share patient stories about the value and benefits of increased patient access to health data and apply crowdsourced patient input into application design.

“What is so great about this project is the way real patient engagement is built in, starting with crowdsourcing the ideas for the Challenge to having the developers post their concepts on Health Tech Hatch so that patients can iteratively interact with the developers in a codesign process, and vote,” Health Tech Hatch CEO Patricia Salber said in a public statement. “It’s the first time such an extensive involvement of patients in the development of apps/tools has taken place.”

At the same time, the Cleveland Clinic, one of the nation’s top healthcare organizations, announced its efforts to make patient access to EHRs more transparent, secure, and convenient. According to the announcement, Cleveland Clinic’s MyChart EMR, developed by EHR vendor Epic Systems, will enable “nearly complete access” to pathology records, radiology imaging, physician notes, and problem lists of their current health issues. This functionality builds on the access patients of Cleveland Clinic currently have to after-visit summaries, medications lists, and other reports via the organization’s secure online patient portal.

“Our 21st century, value-based healthcare delivery system requires that patients are actively engaged in their health and healthcare decision-making,” Toby Cosgrove, MD, Cleveland Clinic CEO and President said in a public statement. “It is our job to provide MyChart-activated patients with the tools and information they need to make informed decisions about their own healthcare, under the guidance and expert advice of their physicians.”

Although the hospital and provider adoption and meaningful use of EHR, HIE, and other health IT systems play an important role in increasing the data fluidity of patient health information, they are merely the means to supporting and enhancing the interaction at the core of healthcare, the one between provider and patient. A robust health IT infrastructure will enable information to flow to the point of care or wherever else it is needed by providers, but it must be complemented by tools for patients to play a similarly active role in their own healthcare.

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