Written by Frank Tucker
With Meaningful Use, we have seen a significant increase in the use of Electronic Health Records. To support continuity of care, health information exchanges have also expanded. Though health information is being liberated, we still have a long way to go for patient-centric health information. We must advance from the age of data and information to the age of knowledge and wisdom. To do so, information must be transformed into something useful not only at the point of care for clinical decision support, but also for the patients to better manage their health.
Patients are more knowledgeable of their health than ever before and often leverage consumer health information available on the internet to make decisions. Unfortunately, we do not see that widespread embrace with non-consumer health technologies such as Personal Health Records. The question is how do we turn this wealth of health information into something more meaningful? How can we transform health information to knowledge and share insights so patients make better decisions for better health outcomes? How do we empower patients through technology to be more engaged in their health? How do we democratize health information… freely sharing knowledge and innovation with others by creating communities rich with patient empowerment? These types of questions were addressed recently in a panel discussion by HIMSS NCA titled “Healthcare Consumerism: Empowering the Patient.” The expert panelists articulated the challenges they faced in what we call a triple helix environment of academia, industry and government. They elightened us all on the benefits, challenges, and future of providing patients with useful and pertinent medical information and tools. The discussion was not centered around the debate of patient vs consumer but the philosophy of consumerism in health that ultimately empowers the patient through advocacy, engagement and empowerment.
One of the greatest controllable factors to improving patient outcomes is active patient participation in preventive health and care planning. For example, studies demonstrate that the more non-compliant the patient is with their follow-up visit plan following bariatric surgery, the higher the likelyhood of failure. The same logic could be applied with preventive health screenings such as hypertension. The more active patients are in the annual blood pressure screening, the higher the likelihood of early detection for treatment. The earlier the patient is treated, the less likely they will progress with hypertensive complications given the appropriate treatment and compliance. To date, most of the information to help the active patient has been passive in nature. For example, the patient is given lab results in their Personal Health Record. The question is what should they do with this result? Do they need to follow up? Should they be concerned? Certainly, approaches like secure messaging can help however; it still doesn’t empower the patient. Clinical decision support systems help the clinician make better decisions. Why shouldn’t it do the same for patients?
We have several projects we are working on at MicroHealth to provide meaningful tools to help empower the health consumer. MicroHealth Patient Decision Support system (mPDSS) project is designed to take information that is typically passive such as Personal Health Record and makes them active. mPDSS is a patient decision support engine that will help patients actively manage their health such as preventive services and medical conditions though the convenience of their mobile device. Based on data from an electronic medical record, personal health record or self-entered, the engine will help the patient know when they are due an immunization, when they should have a colonoscopy, what tests they should be doing to better manage their diabetes or post bariatric surgery follow up plan. Transforming data to action, mPDSS will help activate the patient in the care planning and management process.