Park: Federal health tools, data help docs achieve meaningful use

By Mary Mosquera
02:42 PM

Innovative tools and data that federal health agencies have released to the public can help healthcare providers meet meaningful use of electronic health records (EHRs).

Applications that developers have created around data that the Health and Human Services Department has made available can also support providers engaging with their patients, according to Todd Park, HHS chief technology officer. Last week, HHS showcased nearly 50 innovations at the Health Data Initiative forum.

Among the meaningful use options menu set, providers are supposed to tee up education materials for their patients. MedlinePlus Connect has been declared by the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT as a vehicle through which to do that.

MedlinePlus Connect is a free service of the National Library of Medicine that lets health organizations and health IT providers link patient portals and EHRs to MedlinePlus, an authoritative up-to-date health information resource for patients and health care providers.

“So you can integrate an EHR and personal health record (PHR) to Plus Connect and have it spit back to the patient information about their meds or a customized package of information,” Park said June 15 at the Government Health IT Conference & Exhibition hosted by the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS).

Another example is Blue Button, an application of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and Veterans Affairs and Defense departments, to enable their beneficiaries to download their personal health information from the patient portal to an electronic device or PHR.

Under meaningful use, when patients request it, providers must supply a copy of their health information within four days. “Blue Button is a super easy way to fulfill that. It’s just a text file,” Park said.

Last week, Aetna announced it will offer Blue Button through its PHR, which has 10 million users – and, of those, 1.5 million active users. Walgreens, the pharmacy provider, has also said it will offer Blue Button. 

“Meaningful use is essentially step one in terms of rewarding providers for using data and IT, and step two is payment reform,” Park said.

Programs such as accountable care organizations, medical homes, bundled case rates and hospital readmission reduction programs will reward providers for coordinating care and improving health.

Companies, such as Rise Health and Essence Healthcare are creating accountable care enablement services that physicians and hospitals can sign up for to help deliver the kind of data, IT and analytics, and get case management and boots on the ground to succeed in a role where they are responsible for lower costs and improved health.

These services are making use of government data to create situational awareness where case management nurses follow diabetic patients. For example, if a patient lives in an area with limited access to fresh fruits and vegetables, the case managers can connect him or her through elder service to the local meals-on-wheels to get the right kind of food, said Park.