It is reasonable to assume that, over time, patient interest in health IT resources will increase, especially given the broad appeal of general Internet use, including social networking and other consumer-oriented web services. Among American health care consumers, considerable interest exists in Internet access to personal health information stored on electronic health records (EHRs). Across several surveys, 76 to 86 percent of respondents expressed interest in having access to their health information over the Internet (Fricton and Davies, 2008; Patel et al., 2010; Wen et al., 2010); however, at that time, 1 in 11 had experience doing so (Wen et al., 2010). It has been found that people pay more attention to and become more engaged in their health and medical care when they have easy online access to their health information (Skorve, 2010).

In addition, patient “engagement” and “centeredness” have become ubiquitous goals and objectives of many policies and programs promoted by health reform. For many engaged in realizing these goals, widespread adoption and use of health IT by the public is a necessary, if not sufficient, condition. Within the very large and heterogeneous category of consumer- focused health IT, a few have the potential to increase patient engagement in their own health management (see Box 5-1).

To better understand the impact of consumer health IT, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) held a workshop and issued a

BOX 5-1
Sample of Consumer Health IT Tools and Services

•   Personal health records (integrated and free standing)

•   Applications on common devices like smart phones (technology that provides voice and text communication, video and transmission of wireless monitoring data)

•   Access to health information (via multiple electronic sources)

•   Integration with remote monitoring (personal and home devices and observation systems)

•   Internet-based social networking and support

•   Internet-based search engines and electronic knowledge bases

•   Internet-based administrative services that support care coordination (appointment scheduling, prescription refills, lab results)

•   Decision support tools for assessing day-to-day health status or progress toward a health-specific goal (e.g., weight loss, glucose control, caloric intake, cardiac fitness)

•   Devices supporting remote monitoring and transmission of data (e.g., from a patient’s home environment to a clinician or health “coach”)

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