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“Think Big” as We Engage Patients & Families in a Healthcare System for the 21st Century

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Next week is an “Eric Goes to Washington” adventure, where I have the honor of testifying before the Senate Special Committee on Aging about “aging-in-place” technologies and policies. I also have the great opportunity to testify before the Health IT Policy Committee on the use of health IT for patient and family engagement. Below is a blog that will be cross-posted on the HITPC website, found at http://healthit.hhs.gov/blog/faca/index.php/category/hit-policy-committee/ where you will be able to see the written testimony and blog comments from many of the speakers.



“Think Big” as We Engage Patients & Families in a Healthcare System for the 21st Century

Eric Dishman

Intel Fellow, Intel Corporation


As a patient, patient advocate, and health technology researcher at Intel, I am thrilled to see the Health Information Technology Policy Committee tackling issues around using health IT to facilitate more patient and family engagement in their own health, wellness, and care. I encourage the committee—and our nation—to think big about the topic. We have big challenges ahead of us just bringing 30+ million uninsured into the health care system, while the number of medical facilities and providers stays the same or even goes down. Then, as the Age Wave of retiring Baby Boomers really takes hold, we will add 15 million more Americans who turn 65 (on top of the 40 million people age 65+ we already have today) in just 10 more years, again, with probable decreases in the numbers of practicing doctors and nurses since many of them are retiring Boomers themselves. These big demographic, social, and economic challenges will require big ideas and solutions—not bandages placed on the wounds of our current healthcare system.


It is clear from our ten years of research at Intel on these topics that having a basic Personal Health Record—a PHR—where patients can access, understand, and share their own data reliably, securely, and privately across all the places and people they get care from—is a crucial and big first step. But this is only the beginning. Meaningful use of Health IT for patients and their families is about far more than just having access to an electronic version of our chart. Ideally, Health IT will help connect the patient, their family, and their providers into a collaborative, data-informed, coordinated care team. Our technology must allow us to do our care differently and sometimes in different places: at home, at work, on-the-go, in addition to traditional clinics and hospitals.


During the last White House Conference on Aging, CAST, the Center for Aging Services Technologies (www.agingtech.org), created a vision video suggesting how an elderly patient, his family, and his professional providers might use a wide range of technologies in his home to do care coordination. A PHR—and an entire data infrastructure—are certainly at the heart of that imagined world. But it is the interactions between the people—and the broader definition of “health” beyond just pills and diseases to social interaction, a sense of purpose, and a well-lived life—that are the true “meaningful use” our health IT must aim for. Thus, I highly recommend viewing the free CAST video at http://www.aahsa.org/Imagine/ to spark big ideas about how Health IT can support patient and family engagement.


So my own big ideas for this mission include:

1)     Setting an ambitious national goal and implementation plan to move 50% of care done in institutions today to the home and community by 2020

2)     Driving a Y2K-like government/industry commission to more quickly prepare our nation’s healthcare infrastructure and industry for the imminent Age Wave

3)     Expanding the use of health IT to the whole continuum of care, especially long term care, so that more than just hospitals and doctors get on the health information highway

4)     Making empowered, educated, engaged patients and family members a requirement for Care Coordination and Medical Home teams through training, incentives, and support

5)     Accelerating R&D of health engagement products for patients and families by funding a 10,000 person cohort of broadband-connected households to test out promising telehealth, personal health, and independent living technologies on a larger scale


What are your big ideas for engaging patients and family members in our care? How can we all become a more proactive part of the 21st century “careforce”?


Comments are welcome.  please post to: http://blogs.intel.com/healthcare/


NOTE:  ERIC DISHMAN'S 'HOME BLOG' PAGE HAS MOVED TO:  blogs.intel.com/healthcare