WASHINGTON, D.C. — Even by-the-book objective journalists can get behind the idea of patient advocacy and consumer engagement. No matter how fair, balanced and disengaged one can be, in the end we’re all patients.
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That’s why National Health IT Week — a citywide event that can only be described as a loosely connected amalgam of events spread throughout D.C. catering to vendors, pols, healthcare providers, wonks, policymakers, consultants, analysts and other hangers-on — begins with what it should: patients.
At the week’s kickoff, the ONC’s 4th Annual Consumer Health IT Summit, attendees got to see National Coordinator for Health IT Karen DeSalvo, M.D. debut her jacket painted by patient advocate Regina Holliday. Holliday was in her usual spot, painting a picture of the day’s proceedings in the corner, behind her easel.
Attendees also got to meet two new federal officials whose mission is patient privacy and health data access, respectively, in new HHS Office for Civil Rights Director Jocelyn Samuels, and Lana Moriarty, ONC acting director for consumer e-health. In the other sessions, they got a full day’s measure of enthusiasm and federal backing for pushing health data access and interoperability initiatives.
Interoperability and national health IT infrastructure isn’t going to build itself; the next few days will see commercial stakeholders — provider CIOs and software vendors — tell their side of the story in what looks to be a grand, decade-long transition from paper to digital health records in the U.S. healthcare system. Their concerns are valid, as they delve into very serious matters of technology implementation on shoestring budgets and data security problems that amount to a spy-vs.-spy game with offshore hackers who will exploit any system vulnerability to find salable health data online. Then there are the issues of finding political common ground in an epoch of Capitol Hill toxicity where all sides loathe each other and, of course, finding public and private funding to pay for it all in moribund economic conditions.
But, it’s good to know that at least somewhere, patients come first. As they did this week. Let’s hope that idea sticks the whole year round, not just during National Health IT Week.