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ONC’s Annual Meeting: The Promise of Patient Engagement

December 12, 2012
by Gabriel Perna
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This week, at the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT’s (ONC) third annual meeting, held in Washington, D.C., a pair of panelists looked at the various opportunities of patient engagement, while exploring current government and private-led initiatives and technologies.

Daniel Kraft, M.D., a Stanford- and Harvard-trained physician-scientist, chairman at Singularity University, executive director and curator for FutureMed, and an overall industry thought leader, excitedly spoke of the varying opportunities found in this space.  Meanwhile, Lygeia Ricciardi, acting director of the Office of Consumer eHealth at ONC, spoke of what the government has done to promote patient engagement, thus far.

Kraft said patient engagement innovations can help make people “mindful of their health,” and keep them away from the costly health procedures that have put burdens on the system. He mentioned genome sequencing, cloud-based cardiology, gamification in health, iPads becoming patient data dashboards, artificial intelligence, and many other existing innovations that could engage the patients of the future.

“You’re aware of checklists and how they've made a huge difference in the operating room,” Kraft said. “That's being applied to the home environment as well,” he added, saying that a medical checklist app on smartphones and tablets in the home “can save lives.”

Meanwhile, Ricciardi talked about the present atmosphere of patient engagement. She said the way her Office of Consumer eHealth thinks of engaging the broader community is through the three As: access, attitudes, and action. On the attitudes part, she said, patient engagement is a mindset.

 “In a very simplest sense you don't need anything really complex to begin that mind set of engaging in your care,” Ricciardi said to the audience. In terms of the push from the federal government, she mentioned the Blue Button initiative and the rules in Stage 2 of meaningful use requiring providers to have patients download, transmit, and view their medical record electronically.

Ricciardi also talked about how patient engagement opportunities allow patients to be a health information exchange (HIE) of one, and be “that coordinator among various providers who makes sure they're all on the same page even if they’re already sharing with each other.” The access to their own data, she said, also allows them to check it for errors or omissions.

On the challenges of patient engagement, Kraft mentioned the cost of the apps as a primary roadblock. “We’re wondering who is paying for those apps,” he said. He did mention though, various clinical trials have shown providers can get “dramatic results” with chronic diseases through these patient engagement apps.                                                                                                

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