Health IT Summit Stresses Patient Access to Data
Randy Watson recalled the ordeal that he had to go through to get his medical record from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).
“I used to go to the hospital, fill out forms, and it cost quite a bit for me to get them,” the veteran of the Vietnam War said. “My private file with the VA was over 600 pages, and that is just on my heart disease. Over the last 20 years, I have had a quadruple bypass, eight heart attacks, and congestive heart failure.”
During the 2012 Consumer Health IT Summit on Sept. 10 in Washington, D.C., Watson described how a program called the “Blue Button” helped him get his medical records faster.
The Blue Button, which the VA unveiled in fall 2010, allows veterans to go on a website and download their medical records with the click of a button. So far, more than one million veterans have registered to use the feature. It is also used by the Department of Defense.
“They are my medical records, and with the Blue Button I have control of them,” said Watson, a retiree who lives in Joplin, MO. “I can download it at a moment’s notice from anywhere in the country.”
The program was highlighted as part of the larger theme at the summit—sponsored by the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services—of granting access to electronic health records (EHRs).
“Let’s give the patient access to their records,” said Farzad Mostashari, national coordinator for health information technology.
The requirements for the second stage of the federal government’s “meaningful use” program include greater patient access. The program rewards hospitals and physician offices with money for becoming meaningful users of EHRs
The criteria, which participants must meet by 2014, requires hospitals and physicians to provide online access to health information for more than 50% of their patients, and more than 5% of patients have to actually access the files. More than 5% of patients must also send secure messages to their doctor.
The requirements are in response to a survey that the ONC performed of the nearly 2,000 hospitals participating in the meaningful use program, Mostashari said.
“Two thirds of hospitals said not a single patient during the reporting period had asked for an electronic copy of their records,” he said.
The ONC also has a Blue Button Pledge Program where managers of medical data can commit to allowing patient access, and employers and nonprofits can pledge to educate consumers on the importance of health IT.
Posted: September 12, 2012