Using health IT to improve access to information, receive better care

By Dena Mendelsohn on Friday, July 25th, 2014

Second in a blog series on health IT.

Most of us grew up with a health care system centered on those precious moments you get to spend one-on-one with your doctor. Forget to ask a question and you feel like you have to wait for the next visit. In this digital age, communication with our health care providers is advancing daily, building up our options for patient-doctor communication.

Health IT should be designed to grease the wheels for consumers trying to access their health information. However, varied technologies and provider take up rates can leave patients feeling confused about the digital health care world.

Consumers have a right to effective health IT tools that further our engagement with our health care providers and improve our health care and access to information. Here’s what we ought to expect.

Tools that help you understand your health care:

  • Get an accurate list of medical conditions, prescription medications, medication allergies, and potential interactions and other risks;
  • Retrieve a “summary of care” and discharge information from primary care and specialist visits, as well as after hospitalization;
  • Download a personalized “care plan” if their provider created one, including recommended medical tests, treatments, or procedures, and suggestions for behavioral changes such as in diet or physical activity;
  • Use online and electronic education materials and tools to get educated about managing health conditions.

Tools that help you manage your health care:

  • Make, change, and cancel medical appointments online;
  • Order and refill medication prescriptions online or from your smartphone;
  • Receive medical test results either online or via email.
  • Receive education materials from providers tailored to the consumers’ medical needs.

Tools that help consumers coordinate their health care:

  • Get “care coordination documents” to navigate between primary care and specialist doctors for team-based and well-rounded care.
  • Get tools to support shared decision-making between the patients and their providers;
  • Provide a complete medical and pharmaceutical log for prescribing doctors and pharmacists to avoid dangerous drug interactions.

Tools that help consumers give feedback on their health care

  • Enable you to provide feedback about care via patient experience of care surveys. These customer service and patient satisfaction results can easily be entered online or through text messages and may be used to improve care practices.

Act now! If your doctor’s office does not offer these valuable tools—especially appointment scheduling, secure messaging, and online prescription ordering—encourage your doctor to start; if she says no, consider switching doctors. Engaged consumers may be doctors’ best way of knowing whether the tools they adopt are truly useful for their patients. Share your story with us directly using this link so the experts at Consumers Union can continue working to make your voice heard in the health care industry. To join our movement and receive periodic updates and communications from Consumers Union Advocacy on this and other topics of interest to consumers like you, click here.

One Response to “Using health IT to improve access to information, receive better care”

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