By Dr. Bettina Experton
This election season, the candidates are using social media and mobile technology more than ever to connect and motivate potential voters – Twitter, podcasts, fundraising via SMS. In many cases, this results in more engaged and active citizens truly committed to the political process. There is a lesson here for the healthcare and health IT policy makers and regulators. The next Administration should deliver on the revolutionary Open Data, Blue Button initiative, and patient-centered policies with a “Go Mobile” and “Power to the People” focus when it comes to Health IT policy.
Despite years of using the phrases “patient-centered” or “patient engagement” – the regulatory environment has focused on provider centric and legacy health IT systems. Digitizing medical records was a first “must have” to deliver needed health information flow but investing in a decentralized, low cost, and ubiquitous consumer-facing mobile infrastructure has lagged far behind. This is especially unfortunate since putting the patient’s own digital data under his or her control can do a lot to optimize health information flow via consumer-mediated exchange.
Technology moves fast and policy and regulations often lag behind. For example, none of the capabilities of today’s mobile device-enabled technology were contemplated when Meaningful Use regulations were formulated and adopted, even when it came to practical data sharing with patients who use their mobile devices in every aspect of their daily lives. Wouldn’t it make more sense for patients to access their information via these devices, rather than being restricted to navigating patient portals? The technology industry recognizes this – and Apple is already working on EHR storage capabilities within HealthKit.
With a new Administration comes the opportunity to start fresh with a “Go Mobile” and “Direct to Patient” mindset. The ability for the patient to access and securely store personal health data on their own device actually helps address the privacy and security issues raised by centralized server-based systems that are more subject to hacking. Mobility also helps solve the EHR interoperability challenge by putting the patient in control of assembling and sharing his or her own record at any point of care.
Until now, the focus – and funding – has been on provider systems. But in today’s technology environment, we have the tools to address some of our greatest challenges by putting the consumer in the center of the equation. By operationalizing patient engagement through a mobile strategy, we can improve patient safety and health outcomes, avoid medical errors due to a lack of patient information, and reduce unnecessary costs such as redundant medical care.
To fully address raising health care costs post-ACA, consumers need access and transparency to their health data, including both claims and EMR data. The Medicare, VA and DoD Blue Button initiative launched by President Obama in 2010 opened the data for beneficiaries of these programs, but mobile technology rendered that initiative usable and actionable in the hands of patients.
Our new President needs to deliver these must-have mobile tools to millions of Americans, starting with Veterans, Medicare and TRICARE beneficiaries and the millions of new Medicaid enrollees to ensure their own safety navigating a complex healthcare system and help contain healthcare costs for themselves and the health of our economy.
The opportunity is ripe to build upon the legwork done by the current administration and bring the power back to the people. Mobile consumer facing technology is the key.
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