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7/20/2010
09:07 AM
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Meaningful Use Rules Make Sense To Patients

I'm not a doctor or nurse. Nor am I a hospital administrator, CIO or health IT worker. However, I am a patient. So while the government's long-awaited, meaningful use, stage 1 "core objectives" could very well entail a lot of process changes and costly technology to implement for healthcare providers, from a patient perspective--my perspective--many of the requirements sound reasonable, even commonsensible.

I'm not a doctor or nurse. Nor am I a hospital administrator, CIO or health IT worker. However, I am a patient. So while the government's long-awaited, meaningful use, stage 1 "core objectives" could very well entail a lot of process changes and costly technology to implement for healthcare providers, from a patient perspective--my perspective--many of the requirements sound reasonable, even commonsensible.For instance, among core objectives for healthcare providers in stage 1 is supplying more than 50% of patients with an electronic copy of the patient's health information within three business days of patients asking.

Patient's health information just that--the patient's information. An individual expecting to get a copy of his or her medical information within three days of asking sounds rational to me. Granted, waiting three days isn't exactly the same as real time access to data. But in some states today, rules say patients should be able to receive copies of their medical information "within a reasonable amount of time." That wait could last weeks.

So, by comparison, waiting no more than three days for getting an electronic copy is reasonable, unless a patient is in urgent need of these records sooner. Of course for healthcare providers who don't already have some kind of e-health record system plans in place, fulfilling those requests might sound impossible now. (Then again, isn't the chore of making photocopies of paper records for patients even more work for providers?)

Once a patient's health information becomes routinely digitized, it's also reasonable to expect that many records could be available to patients (via a portal, for instance) much sooner than three days--maybe immediately (as long as sensitive data, like important lab results, for instance, are vetted first by clinicians.)

Among other core requirements are maintaining active lists for health problems, diagnoses, drug allergies and medications for 80% of patients. Again, that's basic--but important information--that can help improve the safety and quality of care that patients receive, especially when patients receive care from multiple providers. Sounds like a no-brainer.

The next wave of meaningful use requirements that come in stages 2 and 3 will likely be tougher to meet, since health department officials admit that many of the original and more challenging stage 1 goals set out in the proposed rules released earlier this year are just being deferred to later.

And while the core requirements aren't perfect, from a patient's perspective, many appear very practical.

As time goes on, the government won't be the only one raising the bar in its meaningful use requirements. Patients' expectations in the quality and safety of care they receive--and timely, easy, secure access to their own health information--will continue to rise, too.



InformationWeek has published an in-depth report on this year's Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society conference. This report offers the best healthcare IT advice, insight, and analysis coming out of that conference. Download the report here (registration required).

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