Robert D. Belfort, Manatt, Phelps & Phillips, LLP, Project HealthDesign Regulatory and Assurance Advisory Group
The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (“ONC”) is currently seeking public input to update the Federal Health IT Strategic Plan (the “Strategic Plan”). The Strategic Plan outlines goals and strategies for the nationwide shift to electronic health records (“EHRs”) and electronic health information exchange, and for creation and spread of new health information technologies. ONC has partnered with researchers at Cornell University to provide Planning Room, a website that makes it easy for the public to offer their thoughts, experiences, and suggestions on the Strategic Plan (or anything else on which ONC seeks feedback).
From now through May 9, 2013, the topic for discussion is one that all of us at Project HealthDesign care about: Consumer eHealth. In the Planning Room, ONC has set forth several discrete topics for feedback from the public, including identifying useful health information, decreasing health disparities through health IT and patient-generated health data. ONC will use the feedback it receives from the public to update the consumer eHealth section of the Strategic Plan.
For those of you who are wondering what ONC has done on the topic of consumer eHealth to date, there is an article in the February edition of Health Affairs that provides a summary. ONC staff authored the article, which is entitled “A National Action Plan to Support Consumer Engagement via eHealth.” The article lays out ONC’s “Three A’s” strategy to increase consumer engagement in eHealth. The three prongs of the strategy are to:
- increase patients’ access to their health information (“Increase Access”);
- enable consumers to take action with that information (“Enable Action); and
- shift attitudes so that patients and providers think and act as partners in managing health and health care using health IT (“Shift Attitudes”).
Of the three prongs, ONC has the greatest direct influence on consumers’ access to their health data, which it supports through the Medicare and Medicaid EHR Incentive Programs and the Blue Button Pledge Program. Initiatives in the second prong support the development of an ecosystem of tools and services that help consumers’ take action using their health information. The final prong of the Three A’s strategy supports the evolution of consumers’ and providers’ expectations about roles relative to each other, leading toward a less hierarchical, more collaborative partnership, enabled by eHealth. For example, patients need to feel comfortable requesting electronic access to their health records, asking providers questions, sharing their own health knowledge, and weighing in on treatment options. According to ONC, a cultural shift among patients and providers is necessary to support these kinds of behaviors.
Now that you have a sense of ONC’s consumer eHealth goals and strategy, we encourage you to go to the Planning Room and share with ONC anything that you learned from Project HealthDesign that you think may help them. It is extremely easy to provide feedback. You don’t have to submit formal comments; just post a comment in the thread on www.planningroom.org. It will show up immediately and a forum moderator will likely respond with a thought provoking follow-up question or – at the very least – a sincere “thank you” for helping ONC develop a Strategic Plan that promotes advances in consumer eHealth.