At HIMSS 2016, Let’s Remember that Patient-Mediated Exchange Can Drive Interoperability
February 25, 2016
By Dr. Bettina Experton

As we approach HIMSS 2016, I feel compelled to remind the health IT community that when tackling interoperability, we must remember that patient-mediated health information exchange is an important means to not only engage patients in their care but also to help providers receive and use health information when and where it is needed. I hope to see discussions at HIMSS center on how we can capitalize on our existing EMR infrastructure and available patient facing tools to encourage not just provider-to-provider communication, but communication between providers and their patients.

Health information exchange between providers and patients was the main recommendation called for by EMR industry leaders and echoed by patient facing organizations and developers like Humetrix during the ONC “Interoperability Governance Roundtable” last March. Now is the time to refocus our attention as the HIT community reconvenes in Las Vegas next week.

DIRECT secure messaging is part of all certified EMRs and can be used in combination with individual PHR tools, including mobile PHRs like Humetrix’s own iBlueButton, or other standard-based solutions developed by NATE members like NoMoreClipBoard or GetRealHealth, to achieve broad interoperability and health information exchange, especially with and via patients. If we want to make meaningful progress in our quest to improve interoperability and data flow, it is critical that we make the existing standard-based technologies that are prevalent on the provider side put to use for data exchange with patients and for consumer-mediated health information exchange. By opening provider-to-patient data flow, we not only allow patients to exercise their new HIPAA rights to access their personal health records, give them tools to ensure their safety across our disjointed healthcare system, but also help data flow between providers via consumer-mediated exchange.

The recent Senate HELP Committee draft HIT bill has brought the critical role of the patient to the forefront. Among the important provisions in the bill is: Empowering Patients and Improving Patient Access to Their Electronic Health Information, which supports the certification and development of patient-centered health record technology. The goal is to ensure that patients can access their health information through secure and user-friendly software so that their up to date medical history can be communicated to their physicians wherever they receive care. Making health information available via mobile devices – which are far more portable and ubiquitous than a PC – should be a key component of the strategy for care coordination and interoperability. More than 100,000 providers who use SureScripts' HISP service with their Epic EMRs, and scores of hospitals using Cerner EMRs can use DIRECT today to securely transmit EMR data and transition of care summaries to their patients’ mobile devices via iBlueButton.

It is time to stop allowing the challenge of interoperability to delay broad deployment of patient-centric solutions. Using DIRECT and iBlueButton, patients can assemble their own comprehensive, longitudinal healthcare record from disparate systems, and annotate, share and update it, right on their own mobile devices, that they always carry with them, at any point of care. Turning on DIRECT, which is embedded in any certified EMR system is easy to do. So why aren’t more health care institutions doing this? And why aren’t they being incentivized to do so? It’s a simple fix that can make a huge difference in improving care for any patient whether they are being discharged after a procedure, continuing their care at another facility, or managing their own health at home.

We will only succeed in transforming healthcare to a value-based system when we achieve true patient empowerment, giving patients access and control over their health records. At HIMSS 2016, I look forward to hearing from my colleagues in the HIT community about their initiatives to drive the use of technology that puts the patient at the center of their care and HIT team.

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