What Patients Want From HIT

November 8th, 2010 by DCPatient Leave a reply »

I am privileged to have been invited to speak at two conferences this week to lend the patient perspective to panels on the future of health information technology. Kudos to each meeting planner and moderator who prevailed upon their colleagues to include a patient as an active participant in the thoughtleadership and agenda setting that occurs during these meetings, shaping the perspective of attendees across stakeholder segments and planting the seeds of what will bloom into policy and regulation in public and private sectors.

In preparation, I’d love to share my initial thoughts with you, Dear Reader, and ask for your suggestions for my remarks.

I see the essential question as: What do patients want from HIT? (EMRs, EHRs, PHRs)

My answer has seven principles:

1. Comprehensiveness

2. Accuracy

3. Priority

4. Safety

5. Efficiency

6. Privacy

7. Quality

Comprehensiveness: An electronic medical record should aggregate all my information across time, specialties, and institutions/practices. A record that does not hold my historical records from all my doctors no matter where I was treated can be misleading to the point of peril.

Accuracy: The information must be correct to be useful. And please make sure my record only holds conditions, lab results, notes, and images that actually belong to me.

Priority: My ideal EMR would highlight the important information in my record for my physician, organizing and alerting her to key issues, new results, missing information. Simply distinguishing between conditions successfully treated in the past from ongoing conditions would be a step up from some current offerings.

Safety: I was thrilled to see the new barcode scanners at my local hospital reducing potential medical errors by checking patient identification bracelets against each medication before administration. Checking for drug interactions, allergies, avoiding overdosing are all important abilities for HIT solutions.

Efficiency: I could spend all night listing ways that the average physician office can be less disorganized. Tops on my wish list are the functionality to send lab results, e-prescribe, schedule appointments, send reminders, instructions for procedures, and orders for bloodwork.  I’m sure many of you would have guessed that my most pressing desire would be to be able to contact my doctor by email. While that would be nice, I am so much more interested in my doctors emailing and coordinating my care with each other before they get around to talking with me.

Privacy: There is a spectrum of comfort level with sharing and release of even seemingly innocuous personal health information. In general I believe that most patients would like to have systems that facilitate appropriate sharing of information for purposes of treatment, more individual or consented release of information (even deidentified) for research purposes, and are concerned about discrimination in employment and other settings if information is made public.

Quality: HIT contributions to quality are predicated on everything listed above. One additional significant way that EMRs  can improve quality of healthcare delivered is to accelerate the translation of new science, guidelines, or regulatory information to healthcare practitioners.

As a patient, a decidedly non-techie patient, unless you involve me throughout development of health information systems and keep a laser focus on the practicalities of care and research your vast expenditures of time and resources may all be for naught. You can build it, but I may not come. Thanks for finally asking what is meaningful use to me.

The 6th Annual World Healthcare Innovation and Technology Congress


Preconference to the American Academy of Nursing’s 37th Annual Meeting and Conference Transforming Nursing through Informatics and technology: Implications for Practice, Education & Policy.


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  1. Kir says:

    I thought this was a fantastic post. Good luck with both conferences, I feel good knowing that you are there, standing up and for all the patients of the US.
    So articulate and great ideas for making healthcare easier and more accessible for all of us.
    Kir´s last blog post ..The Doctors will see you now