In the first part of this series on meaningful use, I outlined what healthcare practices are expected to do in order to qualify for reimbursements during stages one and two. Stage three is where today’s user experience professionals can have the most impact on the current (and future) healthcare ecosystem.
Stage Three of Meaningful Use
Taking place in 2016, stage three will focus the efforts of selected healthcare providers on improving the decision support for patients. Much of the attention will be placed on self-managed tools, such as remote monitoring platforms and increasing patients’ access to administered data.
In December 2012, the Health IT Policy Committe sought public comment on proposed recommendations for stage three of meaningful use under the Medicare and Medicaid Electronic Health Record Incentive Program. In layman’s terms, this means that the US government is looking for ways to empower patients to take a more active role in their health.
With between 11 and 19 percent of smartphone users having at least one health app on their device, significant change will take place over the coming months. Patients will be empowered to capture and interpret personal health information; they will also have the ability to securely share data within a selected network of providers and stakeholders.
Challenges Facing Meaningful Use Practitioners
While there are several benefits to EHR integration, there are challenges as well. Tying reimbursement to health outcomes implies that patients with poor compliance ratings will risk being “fired” by their doctors. There is also the fear among health care providers that electronic acceptance of patient-generated health information could subject them to a higher risk of medical malpractice claims.
Then there is the matter of trust, not only between doctor and patient but also across practices — how can we be assured that our instructions and knowledge are accurately communicated outside the office? We have yet to see a set of design standards by which meaningful use can be appropriately conveyed to non-medical audiences, let alone between specialties.
Opportunities for Design Professionals
The good news is that we are entering an exciting time in personal health monitoring. All of the above efforts will create new opportunities for designers to optimize patient-centric experiences.
Newly-emerging technologies, such as wireless sensors and haptic interfaces, will forge new paths in self-care. Healthcare providers may have greater success in helping their patients by encouraging the use of these tools — a key advantage towards achieving meaningful use benchmarks.
This increased level of autonomy will require that health data be designed for optimal readability and comprehension, and that systems be architected for maximum usability. Health experience designers would do well to acquaint themselves with the Patient Engagement Framework, released by the National e-Health Collaborative. The guide covers a range of assessments across five phases of decision criteria:
- Inform Me — recommend simple tools to make health information more convenient and accessible
- Engage Me — encourage patients to use fitness trackers and online tools to manage their health
- Empower Me — integrate data submitted by patients into office EHR systems, ensuring security and privacy
- Partner With Me — support condition-specific management tools and providing access to care summaries, using home health devices
- Support My e-Community — offer participation in online groups to help patients and caregivers make more informed decisions
Accessibility and Meaningful Use
One attribute of personal health records that doesn’t get mentioned is how to ensure digital accessibility across all delivery streams. A paper printout faxed to a blind patient has little to no benefit on improving her health experience, nor does a remote monitoring device that cannot be used by a person without the use of one limb.
It is also important that electronic systems be developed according to the same accessibility guidelines used for other media; this includes captioning instructional video and ensuring that text-based communication can be interpreted by screen reading software.
The Final Word
With our population living longer (but not necessarily better), the number of people requiring frequent medical attention is expected to rise. Along with that will come an increased demand on fundamental human services. Success in life is largely a process of adaptation. We as a design community have a wonderful opportunity to guide this important transformation, hopefully resulting in a collectively improved life experience for everyone.
To learn more about how you can be involved in the ongoing health policy debate, visit the Federal Advisory Committees website at HealthIT.gov. You can also submit comments on stage three of meaningful use at Regulations.gov.