ONC's Ricciardi gives consumers voice

Lygeia RicciardiLygeia Ricciardi

Anthony Brino speaks with Lygeia Ricciardi about consumer engagement in health IT

Lygeia Ricciardi became the first director of the ONC’s Office of Consumer e-Health in May 2012. The office evolved from the Office of Policy and Planning as CMS and HHS leaders started realizing the central role of individuals in the grand scheme of American healthcare and its reform.

Ricciardi’s office acts as a sort of consumer voice in ONC policymaking and tries to help HIT policy stakeholders think about mobile health and health IT from a patient’s perspective. Another part of the work is helping patients understand their legal personal information rights and the benefits of managing their own data via apps like the Blue Button.

With consumer technologies becoming more affordable at a time when 30 million Americans are getting newly insured, Ricciardi and other federal health officials see a good opportunity to try to align the patient empowerment goals of the Affordable Care Act with the new care delivery and management possibilities offered by health IT.

[See also: ONC details plan to engage patients.]

Ricciardi brings a range of health and tech experiences to ONC’s endeavors, as former interactive web designer, a former policy analyst for the Federal Communications Commission working on telehealth policy and a mother of two daughters.

Contributing Editor Anthony Brino spoke with Ricciardi at the HIMSS Government Health IT Conference in Washington about the Office of Consumer eHealth’s role in HIT policy, the importance of public education on information exchange, and her experience navigating pregnancy care with a smartphone.

Q: So the Office of Consumer e-Health just turned 1 this past May. What have you been working on?

A: It just turned 1. I think it’s exciting. ONC has a real understanding of the importance of consumer engagement. When ONC was originally created and even when HITECH passed, there was a lot of emphasis on providers and hospitals and their role in adopting electronic health records and using them meaningfully. But it’s only in more recent years that it’s become more generally understood that patients and consumers play a critical role, too. It’s about using information technology to empower and enable consumers and patients to be better and fuller partners in their healthcare; we really work across a range of different areas, and we work really closely with pretty much every office of ONC — for example, with the people putting out the regs on meaningful use. The Stage 2 requirements that patients be able to view, download and transmit their data is huge. It wasn’t that the Office [of Consumer eHealth] was saying necessarily, ‘Hey, this is how things should look.’ But saying, ‘Hey, let’s include a broader swath of consumers, both activists and direct patients, in the process of shaping these requirements.’

[See also: Lygeia Ricciardi at the mHealth Summit 2012.]