Health IT Direct-to-consumer Effort Should Include Technology Vendors

When I go to the doctor for a check up of another ailment, I understand that the record kept regarding my care is ultimately mine. Not because I’m told, not because I’ve asked (though I have on some occasions), but because the information collected comes from me. Without my providing it, my physician would not have it to keep it.

Maybe it’s my make up, but I pride myself on knowing what others often consider trite and trivial. For most, knowing who owns their health record is exactly that, trivial.

Interestingly, though, is that for every person with a health record, there are the same number of people with a care provider to tell them that the record is theirs. So why then doesn’t everyone know that their health record is theirs?

I don’t think the answer to this question lies in the patient apathy or the population’s potential indifference toward their health outcomes. Innately, I believe people do care.

The point I’m making here is that I think the ONC’s latest effort to market direct-to-consumer (DTC) information is well intentioned but perhaps the burden for doing so is misplaced.

Do we think physicians and their practice colleagues should be spending their time doting on the ownership of their patient’s health record? Is anything other than patient health and outcomes a priority they should be focused on? The ONC thinks so, and given meaningful use and the increased pressure providers face to record and provide results of meaningful health outcomes, physicians are being arm twisted to ensure this level of grassroots marketing provides the ends to the ONC’s means.

Certainly, we as consumers must continue to receive information and education to keep us informed about the world of health IT. It’s true that very few actually understand just how far back healthcare technology is from the mainstream in regard to use of technology. But, as I’ve said before in this very forum, should all of the responsibility for this lie on the providers’ shoulders?

Not so, in my opinion. Sure, physicians and care givers can be advocates to consumer enlightenment, but more of the responsibility really should go to the health IT vendors. After all, they are the ones selling the products to the physicians. It behooves them, and enriches them, the educate consumers to the value of the systems’ worth and how help improve health outcomes.

Sending this message to consumers, and helping to educate them of the benefits of these systems, will go a long way toward convincing them that their physicians need the systems. If consumers find value of these systems, they’ll let their wallets do the talking and give their business to physicians and practice that employ health IT.

And, if the physicians are truly going to be “the sales force for health IT,” perhaps it’s time the vendors started incentivizing these walking billboards the ONC wants them to be.

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