By Deven McGraw, Director, Health Privacy Project,Center for Democracy & Technology
Sometimes the work of federal policymakers in Washington seems far away from the daily reality of trying to improve the health of individuals with chronic conditions. But as health IT incentives move forward at a rapid pace there has never been a better time to educate policymakers about our work.As Project HealthDesign grantees demonstrate how technology can be leveraged to improve health, I am working with the legal and regulatory team at Manatt Phelps & Phillips, LLP to help bring their experiences into HITECH/ARRA implementation policy discussions.
In order for health care providers and hospitals to be eligible for health IT incentive payments under HITECH/ARRA, they need to adopt – and “meaningfully use” electronic health records to improve individual and population health across a number of domains. Unsurprisingly, domains include public health as well as care management and coordination among providers, but engaging patients and their families is also a criteria.
For those of us who believe in Project HealthDesign, the initial patient engagement meaningful use criteria are a good first step toward greater patient empowerment – but more work needs to be done. Thankfully there are opportunities this year and next to build on this foundation and set meaningful use criteria for the later stages of the incentive program that could move the needle even further on patient empowerment. For example, future meaningful use criteria could include providing patients with information in computable form (so it can be more easily incorporated into PHRs and smartphone applications) and incorporating “patient-generated” information (such as ODLs) into providers’ electronic health records.
Project HealthDesign has already begun to take advantage of these opportunities and we look forward to working on bringing the vision of Project HealthDesign to more patients, their families, and their care providers.