Tag: meaningful use

Engaging Patients Requires Your Letting Them Know that You Are Trying to Engage Them

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Amit Trivedi

Perhaps one of the easiest ways to engage patients in the patient engagement process, especially as it relates to meaningful use Stage 2, is to let them know that you are trying to engage them.

Since CMS announced the patient engagement requirement as part of meaningful use, physicians and practice leaders who hope to attest and receive federal incentives have voiced their concern over the requirement since it’s the one element beyond their control.

“The push back from providers is because it’s the one thing they can’t control; they can’t make patients ask for a patient summary and force them to download it,” said Amit Trivedi, healthcare program manager at ICSA Labs, which is a vendor-neutral testing and certification firm that works with EHR vendors. “Originally, I thought it would be upheld. I still don’t think they’ll drop it, but it’s possible they (CMS) may modify it or choose not to audit it.”

Essentially, the patient engagement portion of Stage 2 most likely won’t be dropped, but, according to Trivedi, enforcement of the mandate may not happen right away.

Still, Trivedi says the healthcare community shouldn’t walk away from the patient engagement debate simply because patients don’t seem interested in or accessing their health record. On the contrary, now is the time to begin moving in the direction of creating more awareness with the consuming public.

By taking the approach that if patients don’t ask for something because they don’t want it is faulty, Trivedi said. The same arguments were made by technology vendors prior to meaningful use who he said claimed certain enhancements just were not important to physicians and their patients. However, once incentives were announced and mandates issued, vendors quickly jumped on board to upgrade their systems to meet the new need.

Patient portals are an example of one such tool. Prior to meaningful use, they were considered Cadillac-like add ons that were wanted only by a few practitioners. With meaningful use, they are necessary and required component of the systems.

“You may never be able to make patients download their records, but you have to advertise and make the data available” said Trivedi.

Healthcare is entering the age of a new demographic and though there may be little desire to engage with the current generation, upcoming users are not going to be so patient in seeking their health information. For many, having access to their records will be a right, Trivedi said. Making data available to the public and encouraging patients to access and use it is nothing more than a cost of business.

Other than advertising to patients about the capabilities, Trivedi suggests taking the message to those who truly need access to it, for example, parents of young children and caretakers of the elderly. Though there’s simply no way that a majority of consumer patients will be engaged patients, at least in the short term, it’s much more likely that targeting specific population sets, like those mentioned, will help move the population forward and get people to take greater ownership of their care (or at least the care of those they are caring for).

After all, even with all the data collection and its analysis, its potential for improving greater health outcomes across the population and the move toward structured and transportable data, it ultimately we won’t find the results we’re looking for if the patients are not engaged.

Really, Where is the Soul of Meaningful Use?

Help me understand, if you will, where the soul of meaningful use lies. I’ve seen the rules that have been made final and I’ve heard the stories of folks in the field that have had their lives and practices changed because of it.

But all of this just doesn’t seem to lead to a very innovative end.

Sure, the technology is needed in healthcare as the antiquated use of paper continues to overwhelm, but what’s the real proposition here? As far as I’m concerned, some of the real questions remain unanswered, and I am slightly suspicious as to why the feds are so heavily involved.

Granted, I shouldn’t be surprised given all the money that’s been spent in numerous non-government areas (like cars, banking and solar), but let’s peel back here a little and ask why the industry really needs the incentives. Let’s agree that on its own, the healthcare industry would have adopted the technology and was doing so; the incentives just moved adoption along much more quickly. So, why are the feds involved? Agree with me or not, they want our data.

This is the coup d’état. Collected data leads to predictive analysis and evidence-based treatment protocols. This leads to the dissolution of independent care protocols and removes independent will and turns healthcare into committee care.

Getting care is going to be similar to applying to government grants and scholarships. I’m oversimplifying the matter here, but please, let’s admit that there is a price that’s going to be paid for the federal incentives.

That said, my soap boxing out of the way, I’m back to my original question: Where is the soul of meaningful use?

Let’s take a look at the upcoming Stage 3. In large part it’s a lot of increased measures and new “patient engagement” provisions such as: giving patient the opportunity to request amendments to their records online, requiring electronic health records to receive, generate or access appropriate immunization recommendations, and requiring EHRs to be able to query other entities for outside records.

(Yawn.) (Wipe my eyes.)

These are valiant efforts and worthy of exploring, certainly. But, where is the real innovation that we’re supposed to be seeking? Where’s the game-changing approach to healthcare information that blows our minds? This is a technology based process after all and I think we need to begin demanding more of the technology we employ.

The technology is not holding us back, either. It’s us and our continually lowered expectations. If we’re going to take some risks then those risks need to be real risks and not some marketing speak for a data grab slight of hand.

From my perspective, about 90 percent of the technology vendors in the space do just enough and nothing more. Their investments are in sales teams, not in research and development.

But how can you blame them when the one leading body of the mandated changes is asking so little of the community.

What this is beginning to feel like a bunch of self-appointed “decision” makers trying to affect change of a program that’s been in place for decades, in the end, no matter the tinkering, may be nothing but waste having been accomplished.

We Live In a Database World and No Matter How Meaningful We Use It, There’s Still Much to Be Desired

The meaningful use of data collected in an electronic health record continues to be the stump speech of Farzad Mostashari, National Coordinator for Health Information Technology.

He’s been pushing the message for months: those achieving or working toward meaningful use attestation need to get beyond just the financial incentives of the program, he says.

Physicians and their healthcare systems need to dig deeper and realize the importance of the data that they have at their hands. They need to realize just how to leverage the data to improve their patient’s health outcomes and lead those in their care down an educational path about the importance of their involvement in their care and how electronic systems can help improve their interaction with their care providers.

For meaningful use to work, those in the community need to make sure they’re using the data collected meaningfully. Meaningful use is a tool and it should be used as one; but unlike a simple jack knife, it’s a multi-purpose, multi-blade, do-it-all Swiss Army knife.

If used correctly, as a means for change rather than a singular solution for incentives, Mostashari believes that meaningful use can actually lead to population health management (the real reason behind meaningful use), more patient engagement (this is yet to be determined) and the creation of health information exchanges (yes, but we need interoperable systems before we see wide spread use of data outside their silos).

His ambitions are correct, and collectively, there is a fundamental agreement that meaningfully using EHRs will help accomplish all of these goals (though patient engagement may remain the stickiest of wickets). The problem here, though, seems to be that even though most physicians want to dive into the deep pool of big data, but they just don’t seem to be able to catch their breath.

In all walks of life we face the day-to-day grind of ongoing and seemingly never ending tasks that drive us further away from our goals. However, it’s different in healthcare. I just can’t seem to think of any other professional group (other than members of the military and police forces) under so much constant pressure to produce positive, long-term results for the people they serve.

In addition to making life and death decisions, our physicians and healthcare leaders are constantly facing the deluge of regulation and reform (meaningful use, ICD-10, HIPAA and even to a certain extend malpractice and 5010).

Healthcare professionals are overrun by details that have taken them into the weeds. Their days are long and their time is short. We can argue if electronic health records actually save them time and money. Depending with whom you speak, each person has an opinion as to its effect. Add everything I previously mentioned and it’s simply overwhelming.

I firmly believe that in a best case scenario, we’d be able to meet all of Mostashari’s proposed goals. Big data would (and can) lead to a changed system and provide real and personal stories of improved health outcomes. I believe that if we could clear away the clutter, we could begin building upon the foundation and create the best, most comprehensive, patient-serving healthcare system that produces results and actually changes lives.

But, for now, we live in a database world where no matter how meaningful we use them there’s still much left to be desired.

Healthcare Big Data a Catalyst More So than Electronic Health Records Ever Will Be

Healthcare big data is a big story, and it’s only going to continue being one. It’s a story I like and am intrigued by, but it’s not very sexy. Because of this, the only pieces of information about it seems to be very technical.

Until we actually see how big data changes lives, there’s just not going to be warm and fuzzy stories about it. So, cold and technical it is; nonetheless, I’m still fascinated.

In searching information about the subject, because I too want to know more from a ground floor level, it was nice to come across a nice piece about big data on the Cleveland Clinic’s website.

So, getting right into it, here’s an interesting piece of trivia about healthcare big data directly from the Clinic: “The amount of data collected each day dwarfs human comprehension and even brings most computing programs to a quick standstill. It is estimated that 2.5 quintillion bytes of data are created daily, so much that 90 percent of the data in the world has been created in the last two years.”

Healthcare big data is essentially large amounts of data that’s difficult to manipulate using standard, typical databases. Essentially, big data is very large pieces of information that ultimately, when captured can analyzed, dissected and used to monitor segments within a given sect.

Healthcare big data, it is thought, is what will drive change in care outcomes. What’s interesting, though, is that even though there’s a tremendous amount of data available for use, it’s just not being collected in a structured manner.

Collecting structured data is a must if we are going to begin putting some muscle to the bone of the new healthcare ecosphere we’re putting in place. You don’t have to take my word for it; IDC Health Insights research director Judy Hanover spoke of the same subject recently here.

But, to prove my position, I’ll let Cleveland Clinic make the point: “Unfortunately, not enough of this deluge of big data sets has been systematically collected and stored, and therefore this valuable information has not been aggregated, analyzed or made available in a format to be readily accessed to improve healthcare.”

Also according to the Clinic, if all of the data currently available were used and analyzed, it would be worth about $300 billion a year, reducing “healthcare expenditures by almost 8 percent.”

At the heart of healthcare big data is the hope that it can eventually help providers become predictors. Essentially, big data is like a big crystal ball, or so it’s been said.

According to Cleveland Clinic: “In this way, analytics can be applied to better hospital operations, track outcomes for clinical and surgical procedures, including length of stay, re-admission rates, infection rates, mortality, and co-morbidity prevention. It can also be used to benchmark effectiveness-to-cost models.”

Predictive analytics: That’s what it’s all about.

With all of the attention being given big data and warnings about being prepared for big data so it doesn’t sneak up on you – like meaningful use and ICD-10 – are valid and should be taken seriously.

Efforts are currently underway and available for big data processing and by managing data, “This dynamic data management technology makes data analysis more efficient and useful. Access to these data can also significantly shorten the time needed to track patterns of care and outcomes, and generate new knowledge. By leveraging this knowledge, leaders can dramatically improve safety, research, quality, and cost efficiency, all of which are critical factors necessary to facilitate healthcare reform,” writes Cleveland Clinic.

Big data is a catalyst for change, and without sounding caustic, will be a bigger deal than electronic health records currently are. Without a commitment to it, practices and healthcare systems will be left behind.

“Best” EHR Misconceptions Still Floating About

The misconceptions about healthcare information technology, specifically electronic health records, are rampant even as the technology matures and begins to saturate the market.

More of the technology’s capabilities are known now by the average healthcare insider (physician, practice or hospital leader, for example) than even two years ago (before meaningful use). That’s understandable; however, those darned misconceptions continue to fly.

No matter where you look, there’s a top five or a top four and even a top three list of the biggest misconceptions about the technology.

So, today I thought I’d take a look at some of the “best” misconceptions about EHRs floating about the health IT stratosphere.

Electronic health records won’t save a practice any money: Though they alone may not save money from the moment go, over time and if implemented properly, they can help a practice save money in the long term. Ultimately, they create internal efficiencies such as reduced paper, easier and safer transfer of records to patients and specialists, reductions in the number of tests that need to be ordered, greater coordination of care. Plus, for some practices utilizing EHRs they’ve been able to increase the number of patients seen because of improved administrative functions.

Using technology in the exam room distracts patients and reduces the quality of the visit: Frankly, this is nothing more than a statement made without substance, and there’s really no difference between taking notes on paper or through a piece of technology from the patient’s perspective. Additionally, we all live in a technology filled world and patients are accepting of technology in their lives. In many cases, patients see technology in the exam room as a way to engage their physicians in their care. Physicians should see it the same way.

Electronic health records are not as safe and can be hacked: Never say never, and yes, there’s a bit of truth to that statement, but the fact is that paper records are simply easier to access than their electronic counter parts. And, since most data breeches are inside jobs, at least electronic health records allow for electronic auditing which can determine who, when and how often a record has been accessed.

EHRs are hard than paper to use: Perhaps depending on your comfort with your system, this may be the case, but clear investment in learning the system will pay long-term dividends. Electronic health records allow for searchable records with data that can be viewed, shared, downloaded and “filed” without having to print, manually scan, review and file the documents.

Electronic health records were created to facilitate meaningful use: Quite frankly, this is false. Clearly, EHRs have been available long, long before meaningful use was even a concept. They do facilitate meaningful use now that the process has been put in place for the program to thrive.

An electronic health record assures a practice of meaningful use: Not so. An EHR is the first step in the process. Meaningful use is about the process of using the technology and about using the data gained to improve patient health outcomes. Seeing the patient populations’ data allows physicians to begin to make changes to their approach to care, especially as it relates to chronic conditions.

Electronic health records are not available for every practice: There’s no way to objectively respond to this misconception. Truth is, there are hundreds, maybe even thousands of systems on the market, some of them designed for specialty specific practices. If you have been dutiful in your research and still determine that nothing meets your needs, either you aren’t ready or willing to make the switch or you are impossible to please.

 

View, Download and Transmit: ONC’s Mostashari Encourages HIT Vendors to Get Involved in the Patient Engagement Movement

Farzad Mostashari, national health IT coordinator, says more progress has been made in health IT in the last 20 months than during the last 20 years. It’s a statement he made during the first day of National Health IT Week in September.

Increased adoption of electronic health records and the push toward meaningful use have been the catalysts for this movement, most of which has been driven by the financial incentives associated with meaningful use.

The ultimate goal of meaningful use, and the subsequent adoption of the healthcare technology, is data collection. A subset is patient engagement.

To a lot of different people, patient engagement means a lot of different things. For some, it’s about patients having access to their information, and for others it has nothing to do with “giving” patients information, but more about making them the center of care, Mostashari said recently.

Health and its information are owned by its community, he said, and the community must have access to its information. Policies and practices need to be set in place to unleash and unlock the activities of the community.

One effort to encourage this is “Blue Button.”

“Blue Button is national symbol for the concept of ‘give me my data,’” he said during his address at National Health IT Week in September 2012.

But the effort is transcending patients. It’s being brought to the vendor community, and their commitment is being requested. Mostashari has challenged vendors to make it easy for consumers, by as early 2013, to view, download and transmit to another party their health information through Blue Button. Engaging the vendor community is exactly the kind of effort the market needs since they have a seat at the table.

So far, several vendors have committed to meeting the deadline for the challenge, which is by the HIMSS Annual Conference in early March 2013. The current list of vendors to accept the challenge (those deserving some recognition) include:

Engaging the vendor community in this effort, for an early push toward view, download and transmit, is the right thing to do and it’s encouraging to to see Mostashari putting ONC’s muscle behind this effort.

Vendors are the folks playing a huge part in the overall effort for a transformed healthcare system and they plan to gain the most because of it. As such, it’s good to see them encouraged to take greater ownership of this process and play a larger role in encouraging the patient engagement process.

Take Notice: Rock Health Is Building Useful Things and Helping Solve Many Problems in Healthcare

In the land of health IT, innovation is power and those that control it king.

There’s no status quo here. Resting on your laurels, despite all of the industry standardization related to efforts like meaningful use, will get you no where.

As several vendors are discovering that just because they’ve had products in the market for 20 or 30 years doesn’t mean they’ll be in play forever. We’re in the health 2.0 era. Heck, we’re in the era where even the federal government has entered the open source environment.

As such it’s great to see such a resource like Rock Health dedicating itself to the health IT entrepreneur. If you haven’t checked it out yet, you need to do yourself a favor and take a few minutes to familiarize yourself with its site. Then, you need to forward some of the information featured there to all of your entrepreneurial friends.

Not to sound like a commercial for the service, but it’s hard not to since some of the things going on here are pretty incredible. Actually, this is the kind of thing that happens in a country like ours when leaders, innovators, entrepreneurs, creative folks, business minds, a little money and some passion mix.

The cocktail that commences is Rock Health.

So, what is Rock Health?

It’s an accelerator exclusively for health start ups providing capital, office space, mentorship and operational support to entrepreneurs working on ideas in health. As a nonprofit, Rock Health looks for product-centric ideas that solve real problems in healthcare; “Products can be in the form of web or mobile apps, services, have a hardware or sensor component, and should be early and pre-VC funding.”

Ideas can be of anything as long as it solves a healthcare problem.

For those start ups bidding to participate in the Rock Health program, the selected start up receives a $100,000 investment offer from a VC group for an ownership of between 5 and 10 percent.

Other great Rock Health offerings (found on its site and free for everyone) include an interactive funding database that provides the public with sources for potential healthcare start up funding; videos that teach the unknowledgable upstarts almost everything they need to know about topics like marketing, creating boards, accounting, HIPAA, fund raising and dealing with the FDA; healthcare event listings; a great start up handbook that provides legal and financial advice (it’s comprehensive and overwhelmingly impressive); and finally, perhaps my favorite bit of information offered: interesting health facts that once learned will impress everyone, including your closest and most cynical friends.

You get the point.

Rock Health is more than an incubator and a disruptor for health IT — established vendor giants should be concerned about efforts like this — it is the future of innovation in the space, and if you haven’t taken notice, you should.

IDC Health Insights’ Judy Hanover on the Need for Structured Data, and the Long-term Affects of Health IT Reform

Judy Hanover, Research Director of IDC Health Insights

As health IT continues to mature and providers continue to adopt technologies like electronic health records, the data collected from their use in the care setting becomes the most obvious reason so much energy is being put behind getting practices to implement the systems.

Judy Hanover, research director of IDC Health Insights, recently told me, though, that one of the biggest challenges faced by ambulatory and hospital leaders is that the data entering the electronic systems, in most cases, is unstructured, which makes it almost useless from an analytics standpoint.

Without structured data, Hanover said, quantitative analysis across the population can be complicated, and little can be compared to gain an accurate picture of what’s actually taking place in the market. Without structured data, analytics is greatly compromised, and the information gained can only be analyzed from a single, siloed location.

“There must be synergy between the data collected,” Hanover said. “We’re entering the period of structured data where we’re now seeing the benefits of structured data but still need to manage unstructured data.”

In many cases, critical elements of data collected — like medications, vitals, allergies and health condition — are difficult to reconcile between multiple data sources, reducing the quality of the data, she said. Unstructured data proves less useful for tracking care outcomes of a population’s health with traditional analytics.

For example, tax information and census data are collected the same way across their respective spectrums. All the fields in their respective fields are the same and can be measured against each other. This is not the case with the data entering an EHR. Each practice, and even each user of the system, potentially may collect data differently in a manner that’s most comfortable to the person entering the data. And as long as practices continue to forgo establishing official policies for data entry and requiring data to be entered according to a structured model, the quality of the information going in it will be a reflection of the data coming out.

Lack of quality going in means lack of quality coming out.

“In many cases, structured data is not as useful for analytics as we’d hoped,” Hanover said. “There are inconsistencies in the fields of data being entered in to the systems; and that affect data quality as well as results from analytics.

“As we move into the post EHR era, how we choose to leverage the data collected is what will matter,” she said. “We’ll examine cost outcomes, optimize the setting of care and view the technology’s impact.”

As foundational technology, EHRs are allowing for the creation of meaningful use, but once the reform is fully in place, the shift will focus on analytics, outcomes and benefits of care provided.

Currently electronic health records define healthcare, but health information exchanges (HIE) will cause a dramatic shift in the market leading to further automation of the providing care and will change how location-based services and clinical decision making are viewed.

Though some practices are clearly leveraging their current data, others are not. For them, EHRs are nothing more than a computer system that replaced their paper records and qualified them for incentives.

In the very near term, the technology will have to have more capability than simply serving as a repository for information collected, but will become a database of reference material that will have to be drawn upon rather than simply housed.

“Health reform is the end game,” Hanover said. “And there can be no successful reform without EHRs. They are the foundational technology for accountable care.”

The data collected in this manner will lead to a stronger accountable care model, which will once again bring the practice of care in connection with the payment of care.

Evidence-based approaches will continue to dominate care when the data suggests certain protocols require it, which means insurers will feel as though they are working to control costs.

Unfortunately, all of the regulation comes at an obvious cost at the expense of the technology and its vendors, said Hanover. EHR innovation continues to suffer with the aggressive push for reform through meaningful use as vendors scramble to keep up with requirements.

“There’s little or no innovation because all of the vendors are being hemmed down by meaningful use and certification requirements,” she said.

Product standardization means there are far fewer products that actually stand out in the market.

More innovation will likely only come following market consolidation in which only the strong will survive. Hanover suggests that in this scenario, survivors will focus on innovative product research and development and will take a leadership role in moving the market forward

Though vendors will suffer, users of the systems will likely face major set backs and upheavals at the market shifts and settles. Especially as consolidation occurs, suppliers disappear or change ownership, practices and physicians using these systems face the toughest road as they’ll be forced to find new solutions to meet their needs, learn the systems and try to get back to where they were in a meaningful way in a relatively short period of time.

Likely, deciding which system to implement may bear just as much weight as deciding how to use it.

Pediatricians May Be the Only Group of Physicians Who Can Create Life-long Electronic Health Record Users and Advocates

Perhaps creating an opportunity is nothing more than observing the details and taking action once one has been identified.

Lack of opportunity, on the other hand, might be the opposite – keeping your head down and barreling through life without taking an adequate measure of the terrain in which you are navigating.

The feds missed an opportunity. During their planning and roll out of meaningful use, in their effort to collect the health data of this country’s population, specialists, in many cases, were not considered as recipients of their meaningful use incentives.

For many specialties, this might not apply. But pediatrics are different entirely. Not so much for the physicians’ sake, but for the patients they serve.

Given the direct marketing plan that the federal government has undertaken with its latest healthcare pet project, Blue Button, I’m surprised by its lack of foresight related to patient involvement to this group when it comes to meaningful use.

As the feds work desperately to change the perception of electronic data collection, and to move the most information into electronic records as possible, one might think the best way to ensure absolute adoption is by requiring the one group of physicians who might be able to affect the longest term change to participate in the incentive program.

Pediatricians, like it or not, have not been given special treatment as far as meaningful use is concerned. They, like another large group of physicians, OBGYNs, are left to fend for themselves. You can read more about OBs and their fierce independence in my recent interview with digiChart’s CEO Phil Suiter. The reason is well known and obvious: these groups of caregivers don’t necessarily rely on the government (Medicare/Medicaid) to keep their doors open.

The nature of pediatric practice is such that Medicare is not a significant part of their practice so meaningful use incentives don’t apply here. Therefore, the only avenue left for pediatrics is the Medicaid option – and it only works for practices that have more than 20 percent of their volume as Medicaid. In most cases, these groups of physicians don’t meet the minimum requirements of serving Medicare and Medicaid recipients to qualify, and, also in most cases, they don’t go out of their way to do so.

Therefore, given the logic that A+B=C, they are not lining up to get their share of the incentive checks.

But, one would think the feds would try to find some way to make an exception for pediatricians to participate in meaningful use without having to meet the minimum requirement that 20 percent of their population participate in Medicare. I’m not trying to re-open an issue that I know has been discussed countless times; I’m trying to make a different point.

That is, given the new push for patient engagement and the social media-like approach being taken through the Blue Button movement, I believe the importance of pediatricians has been overlooked.

Why? Well, it’s obvious to me that to engage a population, it’s best to change the population’s behavior. To do so, you have to catch them young; so young that they never knew a difference otherwise.

For example, children today will never know what life was prior to the web. They won’t be able to imagine life before mobile devices turned us into an always on society. There’s a lot they’ll never know.

Thus, if they are exposed to electronic health records in their doctor’s office as they grow up, by the time they reach adulthood, they’ll expect their doctors to use nothing but electronic health records. In fact, they won’t even know what to do with a paper record – how to read and understand it – and, therefore, won’t give their money to doctors without the systems.

It’s really the most direct route to changing a population’s behavior.

Indoctrination.

Sure, engaging the adult population through a service like Blue Button is important, and will certainly help fill the gap currently experience in healthcare’s ownership issue, but as we’ve seen in every other area of life, true change won’t come until those who know no other way become the majority and know no other way.

Is the ONC Blue Button a Lot Like Staples’ “Easy Button”?

Staples’ “Easy Button”

As the self-proclaimed ONC Blue Button movement gains steam and more members of the public sign up to make sure their data gets downloaded, it seems the Office of the National Coordinator, among others in the fold, have borrowed a marketing campaign from office supply chain, Staples.

The “Easy Button” is vernacular for something that get done at the press of a button, even if said task isn’t necessarily as easy as just pushing as button. Obviously, that’s the point.

Same goes for the Blue Button. From a marketing perspective, the concept is genius. With the simple push of a button, you too (read: “consumer/patient”) can have instant access to every last bit of your media records and personal health information like never before.

With the campaign just getting started, there are already more than one million people who have signed up for the Blue Button service (sounds sort of like “black tie event” when I read it like this). Eventually, the movement will take hold, no doubt, and the consuming public will be on board like never before. I anticipate Blue Button will grow enormously, similar in nature to the culture that social sites the likes of Facebook and Twitter have become. Not that we’ll sit around sharing our records with those who “like” us or posting comments about each others ailments and conditions, I think people will perceive blue button to have the same value.

It’s about access to information – information that until now many people have not realized they owned or had access to – instantly, as long as Blue Button is available to them.

That’s the catch after all, isn’t it? Blue Button has to be available to consumers for them to be able to push that little easy button. Seems like there are only a couple things that might keep someone from it. The most obvious is that a patient’s physician must have a meaningful use EHR in place. Another is that the practice must choose to offer the service.

It goes without saying, then, that consumers without insurance most likely won’t have access to Blue Button as they’ll likely not have access to a regular physician with a certified EHR. The current healthcare reform may change this slightly as more people will be “encouraged” to insure themselves. And, as practices move to EHR, access to Blue Button will increase.

All of these details are beside the point. Right now, it’s about the marketing. Making sure patients know that the health information that is rightfully theirs can be in the palm of their hands as easily as pushing a little button.

As we know, or so we’ve hypothesized, that the more you can engage patients in their care, the better care they’ll take of themselves.

And you’ve got to hand it to the ONC. Creating a message that directly engages the public rather than hoping that physicians and their vendors will carry the task is something I have long advocated for.

So getting us, as patient consumers, to engage in and to own our care really took little more effort than developing an app and marketing it directly to the people.

“That was easy.”