“The Stage 2 Final Rule released by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) this afternoon is a huge step forward. It brings us closer to the days when fewer overwhelmed patients and their family caregivers struggle to keep track of tests, diagnoses and medications; beg their doctors to talk to one another; suffer avoidable medical errors; and pay for duplicative and unnecessary care. The rule issued today offers the promise of better, more efficient care, improved safety and fewer hospital readmissions.
We are pleased that the new rule gives patients the ability to go online and view, download and transmit their health information from the Electronic Health Record (EHR) to secure places of their choosing. A recent public opinion survey commissioned by the National Partnership for Women & Families found that this kind of feature helps consumers see great value in physicians’ use of EHRs, and helps them have more trust in electronic systems. The fact that this is now a core requirement, and will apply to the hospital setting as well as to physicians, is key to finally recognizing the critical role patients play as partners in their own care. This is a huge advance that will allow patients to be more actively engaged in their care. It helps realize the potential of health IT in ways the nation needs.
It is good that the new rule also recognizes the essential role that providers and their staff play in encouraging patients to use this online access. It does that by holding physicians and hospitals accountable for ensuring that 5 percent of their patient population logs in once during the year.
In addition, enabling patients to download and transmit their health information electronically will help foster more of the kind of information sharing that is desperately needed to facilitate care coordination, improve safety and reduce costs. Patients play a key role in information sharing, and this rule gives patients the tools they need to do just that.
The rule’s requirements that a summary of care document be sent from one provider to the next for at least one of every two transitions of care or referrals is a good step. CMS is also requiring 10 percent of those transmissions to be electronic. And providers will have to show they are capable of sending these documents to providers who have different EHRs.
Improving care coordination and patient engagement through these criteria (information sharing requirements and online access for patients) are cornerstones of building the foundation of interoperability that will support health system reform. So many new models of care like Accountable Care Organizations and medical homes will crumble without this bedrock foundation. This is a good day for consumers who urgently need a more efficient, safer, better coordinated health care system.”
Click the links below for:
1. Interviews with physician leaders who have implemented patient portals (or online access for patients)
2. A snapshot of the national HIT opinion survey results
3. A full executive summary of the national HIT opinion survey results
National Partnership for Women & Families Vice President Christine Bechtel represents patients and families on the federal Health IT Policy Committee.