A popular regional men’s store uses the advertising slogan “An educated consumer is the our customer”. This same slogan holds true in health care. In order for our health care system and the general health and welfare of everyone to improve, people need to take an active role in their health care. In order to so this, a knowledge base is absolutely essential. This is frequently referred to as health literacy. The more literate you are about your health, the better prepared you are to make positive changes in your health.
You may have received information about accessing your health records through a patient portal from your primary care provider and hospital of choice. You now have access to your health records electronically. For most, it’s simple to log in and review your records as well as print them if you wish.
In 2009 a law was passed as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act authorizing the United States government to develop a program to encourage health care providers to invest in electronic medical records. This program has been dubbed “Meaningful Use” and among other provisions, the goal is to give patients with direct access to parts of their health record, and provide patient education.
“Meaningful Use” also refers to the set of standards defined by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). The goal of Meaningful Use is to promote the use of electronic health records to improve health care in the United States. Health care providers are evaluated on their ability to meet the following criteria:
More than 10% of all unique patients seen by the health care provider are provided timely access (within 4 days of visit) to the record of their visit. The health care provider has the ability to withhold certain information; more than 50% of all patients of the health care provider who request an electronic copy of their health information are provided it within 3 business days; and clinical summaries are provided to patients for more than 50% of all office visits within 3 business days. At least half of physicians reported adopting nearly all of the meaningful use as did 42% of hospitals, a substantial increase from just 4% in 2010.
A large expectation of the Affordable Care Act is to improve health with less emergency room use or inpatient hospital days needed to accomplish this. One of the largest causes of hospital admissions and readmissions in misinformation and mismanagement of medications. Information available through the use of technology needs additional features and functionality to maximize medication adherence, according to a study published last week in the Journal of Medical Internet Research.
The researchers noted that there currently are no data on the potential and actual use of such portals for medication adherence to improve patient outcomes.
Researchers also found that patients were using online portals to refill prescriptions and view medication lists. Patients expressed interest in additional online functions, including
Provider alerts about refills; and
Information on medication side-effects (Gold, FierceHealthIT, 7/5).
While Meaningful Use information is critical to improving patient understanding of their visits with health care providers, patients are interested in using online portals to manage their medications. We all need to pay attention to how the Meaningful Use initiative can improve patient outcomes in medication management. Since a majority of hospital admissions occur due to medication errors, this data is important for patient-portal program writers and the health care providers engaged in patient care. Giving patients what they find useful will go far to decrease unnecessary or preventable emergency room and hospital use.