Current Efforts: Shifting attitudesSkip to issue
§ 1. Overview
Increased access to, and more consistent sharing of, health information between individuals and providers create opportunities for them to work together in making choices about health care. The federal government has taken several steps to help providers and their patients better understand and support the sharing of health information. These steps (explained below) use health IT as a tool to improve communication. This in turn encourages shared decisionmaking among doctors, patients, and other members of the care team – enhancing the trusted doctor-patient relationship by encouraging consumers and providers to place equal value on an individual’s opinions, preferences, and choices and to reach and implement decisions together. In this post, ONC is looking for feedback on these steps so far, and ideas for how they can be improved or expanded in the future.
To discuss shared decisionmaking in more detail, go to Supporting ”shared decisionmaking” through health IT.
§2. New regulations
- When individuals can view their health record stored in an EHR, they are able to play a more active role in their care, by, for example, allowing them to serve as a “second pair of eyes” on the information in their clinical record.
- Being able to download this information allows consumers to enter their health data into apps and tools that help them monitor their health at home, or better understand their overall health and what is involved in the care they receive.
- When patients can transmit this information, they can choose to share their EHR with their other providers. This ensures that everyone treating the patient has a full picture of his/her health history and treatment plans.
Enabling providers and patients to review and discuss the same health information can create a culture of team-based care where everyone’s role–from the physician, nurse, and allied health professional, to the consumer–is respected and valued in reaching optimal health care. The result should be fewer misunderstandings about available treatment choices, potential outcomes, and the patient’s personal preferences.
- Will enabling people to access their information electronically change their behavior to become more engaged health care consumers? What else will it take for patients to take an active role in their health and health care?
- How can the federal government use regulations and policy to expand consumers’ participation in their health care and health choices through the use of information technology?
For other discussions about the role federal regulation should play, see:
§3. Education and outreach
ONC’s efforts to provide educational materials aim to help consumers become more comfortable with health IT’s capabilities, empowering them to become more active in their health care. Other materials help providers understand the value of well-informed patients who can evaluate health information and use tools to improve their health. The Blue Button Pledge Program enlists health care providers, large employers, health insurance plans, and other participating organizations (i) to provide individuals with secure online access to their health records, and (ii) to educate them about how to access this information and use it to improve their health.
ONC is using HealthIT.gov to provide guidance to providers and patients about (i) how to talk with each other about EHRs and (ii) how technology can support greater involvement of patients in making health decisions. An animated video helps explain how access to EHRs can help improve the care people receive from their primary clinician, specialists, and pharmacists.
People can download a memo (PDF) that explains their rights under the Health Information Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) to have access to their health information. They can take the memo to their doctor’s office or insurer to request copies of their health information. The memo also includes links to a variety of educational resources, including a video that explains patients’ rights.
- How can government policies and programs build individuals’ skills and confidence in making decisions about their health and care, and provide resources to assist those less able or inclined to partner actively in their health care?
For other discussions about developing educational and training materials, see:
§4. Privacy & security
ONC recognizes that privacy and security concerns may impact the willingness of consumers and providers to use health IT to increase access to health information. Privacy and security are the topic of a separate section of the Strategic Plan (Goal 3), since these concerns cut across all areas of health IT. Although this public comment period is not targeted at updating Goal 3, ONC will be revising that section of the Plan and your discussion of these concerns, and ideas about addressing them, will help the federal government decide on appropriate future steps.
(You can read the current version of Goal 3 by clicking the Background Documents tab at the top of this page, and selecting 2011-2015 Federal Health IT Strategic Plan).