Dr. Farzad Mostashari, head of the ONC, has said: “We all know that health does not happen in the office. It happens with the patient.” This is one of many reasons ONC has fought so hard to increase patient engagement in health IT, from educating the public through webinars and contests to requiring physicians to encourage patients to access their own health records online.
Most physicians were not happy when they saw the final rules for meaningful use stage 2 and confirmed that the patient engagement requirement had not been eliminated. True, ONC did reduce the threshold from 10 percent to 5 percent, but that doesn’t change the fact that a doctor’s chance for meaningful use incentives hinges upon factors beyond his or her control—whether patients decide to view and download their records electronically.
We’re all aware of the benefits of improving patients’ ability to manage their own care, but it’s going to take some effort to get to that point. Doctors working toward meaningful use will not be able to qualify for incentives unless they utilize a patient portal. Fortunately, most electronic health records vendors have a patient portal offering. ChartLogic launched its own patient portal nearly two years ago, and it has since become one of the three core products of the ChartLogic Suite (the other two core products being EMR and practice management software).
Currently, patient interest in their electronic health records is growing faster than physician adoption of patient portals. Some patients opt to manage their own personal health record (PHR), but accessing records through a patient portal is easier for patients and can be easily provided by physicians. Furthermore, the government has gone through great lengths over the past several years to educate the public about their right to access their own records.
In other words, patient interest is there, but not all practices are prepared with the right technological tools. The good news for physicians is that this means that meeting the 5 percent threshold requirement for meaningful use is definitely achievable.
Patient engagement is an integral part of healthcare reform. The time is ripe for self-managed care, starting with records that are easily accessible to patients.