Practice Economics

Giving patients ownership of data key to solving health IT woes


 

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Mandating that patients “own” their health care data could open the road to true interoperability of electronic health records and might even help solve other tough health IT problems.

“As a consumer, if I pay for my health care, I go see a provider, and I [should] get my data, whatever it is – doctor’s note, lab test, CT or an MRI, Dr. Samson Jesudass, senior vice president and clinical leader at Ascension Health, said at a panel discussion at the Washington, D.C.,–based Bipartisan Policy Center. “That provider should be able to give that to me at the end of that visit, or whenever at whatever time, in a format that I can probably take and put it anywhere else into any other system.”

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Making data portable and, more importantly, giving ownership of it to patients, “might be able to solve the issues” that are affecting the health IT environment, he said. “At the end of the day, if a patient is able to take his or her own data and be able to use it in whatever form or fashion, you actually democratize the whole process of information.”

During the discussion, ownership of data was often cited as a barrier to advancing health IT, particularly with physicians protecting their own data in an effort to protect their practices. But participants noted that language included in the year-end federal continuing resolution and budget bill provides a good opportunity to discuss some of these issues, specifically wording that urges the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology to exercise its authority to decertify EHR systems from the meaningful use program that block the transfer of data.

“This is a prime opportunity to get the physician’s, health care provider’s, [and] health care facility’s input on what’s going to make this an easier change,” especially for those that have invested in systems that are no longer certified to allow for meaningful use incentive payments, Dr. Rhonda Medows, chief medical officer at Optum, the research arm of UnitedHealth.

Vendors should “listen and serve” more, according to Jon Zimmerman, vice president and general manager of clinical business solutions at GE Healthcare. “We have to engage the clinicians and the business people in the health care delivery systems differently. We have to ask them, not tell them. We have to observe them. We have to assist them. And we really have to dig a little deeper to understand what it is they need to do.”

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