The summer before my junior year in college, I demonstrated that bicycles weigh less than vans.
I was heading downhill on my bike when the driver of a van ran an intersection. I bounced off his left front body panel, bounced off the windshield and didn’t quite stick the landing. I was very fortunate: In addition to breaking a 3-day-old bike helmet, I only broke the scaphoid in my left wrist. The downside of breaking this bone is that it has very low blood supply and therefore takes a long time to heal – I spent my junior year in a cast. With that much time in a cast, I had a number of different physicians: My orthopedist in Connecticut that I’d known since I was three years old, a wrist specialist in New Jersey and the team doctor for my college cross country team (Go Tigers!) I tried to become adept at conveying information between physicians. This was clearly the inefficient way to do transfer this information and resulted in confusion on several occasions.
The final rules for Meaningful Use Stage 2 that came out last week start down the road of addressing this problem. One of the most interesting aspects is addressing how “health information exchange between providers promote[s] patient engagement by giving patients secure online access to their health information.” The final rules require that physicians provide patients increased online access to health information and ways to send that information to their health care providers.
The actual Meaningful Use rules for eligible professionals (EP) can be summarized as follows:
- More than 50% of all unique patients seen by EP during reporting period provided timely (within 4 business days after information available to the EP) online access to their health information subject to EP discretion to withhold certain information
- More than 5% of all unique patients seen by EP during the reporting period (or authorized representatives) view, download, or transmit their health information to third party
This is a great first step towards patients having more access to their online health information and creating a more medically empowered population.
As patients get more sophisticated with the use of their own information, patients will use the information to become more active and informed participants in their own care. In a world where anybody can shop for a car using online recommendations and a restaurant using comments from their friends, enhancing online research with informed patients feels almost inevitable. We may even see the growth in social networking around types of treatment options, although there are obvious security and privacy challenges that need to be addressed. The social networking of health became evident through the tens of thousands of people who engaged with GE’s HealthyShare app on Facebook during the Olympics. As one of our physician partners pointed out, many patients are sharing information and crowdsourcing treatment options through sites like People Like Me
The relatively low regulatory goals of patients choosing online access and transmittal of their health information raises questions of whether such access and communication of their health information will gain broad acceptance before and during Stage 2 of Meaningful Use. At GE Healthcare, we’ve noticed very strong uptake of our patient portals and believe that augers well for people choosing to engage with the providers electronically and to be informed advocates in their own care. I would therefore anticipate that, with widespread adoption of these capabilities, we can expect that patients will use them and increase their access to their own data.
I’m hopeful for the next unfortunate college junior to break his or her wrist. With electronic relay of information, he or she is less likely to cause confusion among their providers and to have a better answer when friends ask “Are you ever going to get out of that thing?!?
Please note, this post reflects my personal opinions, beliefs and thoughts and does not represent the official views of GE Healthcare.
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