By Christopher Burrow, MD, EVP Medical Affairs, Humetrix
The Healthcare IT industry is spending billions of dollars to facilitate provider-to-provider electronic communications. This is a very important initiative but there’s a lot more work to be done – even if over 50 percent of physicians now use electronic health records (see SK&A January 2013 report "Physician Office Usage of Electronic Health Records Software"), only one third of them can exchange patient health records with other physicians (Federal Register Vol. 78, No. 45 / Thursday, March 7, 2013 / Notices page 14794)..
Up until now though, most of the discussion about electronic health records has been appropriately focused on providers. Now that physician practices and hospitals now have EHR systems up and running and access to digital medical information, what about the patient? Giving patients access to all of their own relevant digital health data, and allowing them to easily exchange and discuss it with their providers at the point of care, can radically improve clinical outcomes and change the patient-physician relationship.
Today, the patient is often at a health data disadvantage at the doctor’s office. While the 21st Century physician can access information about the patient with a few keystrokes, the patient is left is more or less left in the Stone Age without any technology to help them be an active and effective participant in making sure that the healthcare providers have access to their up to date and accurate health information so essential to ensuring that they receive the best possible care.
Moving forward, the Health IT movement must become as focused on the patient as it is on the provider. In fact, shouldn’t we aim to provide every patient with their own Healthcare IT system that allows them to exchange and discuss their personal health information with the physician during their appointment? In this way, we’re facilitating a two-way conversation, and ensuring that everyone involved in planning the course of care has all the information they need.
The Blue Button federal initiative represents an exciting movement that is leveraging technology to improve patient-provider exchange of information and quality of care. With Blue Button, the patient cannot only easily access all of their information, but importantly, they can become active participants in reviewing and exchanging their information with their healthcare providers if they are given the right technology tools. Let’s not forget that patients are an integral part of that process and commit to developing tools from their point of view!
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