Engaging the Consumer
Looking even further into the future, Berry has several ideas of how health IT can educate and empower the public, and what
that could eventually mean for the healthcare industry as a whole. She suggests resources that allow patients to make doctor
appointments or order prescription refills from pharmacies online, databases that allow patients to keep track of their own
health records, and apps that track blood sugar or other vital statistics in the same way a pedometer tracks your daily steps.
"There are all sorts of ways that technology can be leveraged to help a patient better manage [their health] to avoid hospitalization
or emergency visits," she says. "So we may spend a little bit more on medications but we'll spend a lot less on other downstream
"We know that given how fast health IT is being driven, both by the government and the private sector, it's time to make sure
the consumer is actively engaged in that whole process," says Berry. "We've been sort of focusing on the providers and everyone
else, but no one has really focused on consumer engagement yet. With the ONC strategic plan, new technology, and health reform,
I think many people would say that individuals are a huge untapped resource in terms of engaging in their own health and leveraging
health IT. All those factors are coming to bear and it seems that what NeHC is doing is timelier than ever because of all
Overall, Berry feels that the first meeting was a strong debut to what she says could become a multiyear project. "We had
a number of participants who spoke with great passion from the perspective of patients, drawing on their own experiences of
having been very ill and navigating that process," she says. "That voice was strongly present. We got the dialogue going.
We had enthusiasm and excitement about the consortium across the board and a resounding yes—that these issues are important, that they are timely, and that this is a worthwhile endeavor."
In addition to the new Consumer Consortium, the National eHealth Collaborative has also recently unveiled NeHC University,
a revamping and substantial expansion of its Nationwide Health Information Network (NHIN) University program. NeHC University
will allow stakeholders to explore the broader health IT landscape and gain a more comprehensive understanding of the impact
of health IT.
Classes at the new NeHC university will come in the form of webinars, some for free and others for a registration fee, that
cover a wide range of health IT-related topics. For the Health IT Trends webinar, NeHC will be joined by health IT trends
tracker Michael Lake to deliver a quarterly briefing on innovations, new developments, and trends in HIT, from discussions
sof major business and policy developments to updates on health information exchanges and health IT initiatives and how they
are transforming healthcare financing and delivery.