New Year, New Coverage, New Possibilities

Erin Poetter Siminerio | January 10, 2014

For many of us, January is when we reflect on the past year, and think ahead to our hopes and goals for the year ahead. Every year, millions of Americans make New Year’s resolutions, and for many of us, that means resolving to improve our health. Ask your friends and family, and you’ll hear many of the same resolutions over and over again: eat better, get fitter, take better care of ourselves and our loved ones, and so on.

But for the millions who are expected to gain health insurance coverage in 2014, these resolutions may take on a whole new significance. Many of you will resolve to get a long-overdue checkup, ask a doctor about a neglected health problem, or get needed preventive care.

All of these goals are important, but I have a few other suggestions for anyone who might be resolving to take action on their health in 2014 by using health information technology tools (and truthfully, these resolutions could go on almost anyone’s list). Here are four ways you can use Health IT to improve your health in 2014:

  1. Ask your healthcare providers if they use and provide you access to electronic health records (EHRs). Increasingly, doctors, hospitals, and other healthcare providers use electronic health records that offer many advantages over paper records. One of the biggest advantages is that with EHRs, it should be easier to give patients copies of their records, or even provide the ability for patients to view their records online. Getting your records allows you to check their accuracy, share them with other people you trust, reference the information as needed, and access vital information in case of emergency. And by the way, as an American, you actually have a legal right to access your health records.
  2. Look for the Blue Button. Here at ONC, we advocate that providers and insurers use the Blue Button symbol to make it easy for consumers to find and get their medical and claims information online. When you log into web portals provided by your health care providers and insurance companies, look for the Blue Button symbol. When you see it, you’ll know that you can get your health info so you can begin to use it, share it and plug it into other apps and tools. If you can’t find it, ask when they plan to offer this feature in the future.
  3. Start a Personal Health Record (PHR). The information in your medical and insurance records only tells part of the story. You can use PHRs to add your own health information (like how you’re feeling from day to day, or whether you experienced any side effects from a particular medication), as well as combine copies of your records from multiple health care providers, like doctors, labs, or pharmacies, into one convenient place. Some PHRs even help you interpret information in your medical records, such as test results.
  4. Try a health app or even a new wearable device. Did you resolve to change your diet? There’s an app for that. Did you resolve to quit smoking? There’s an app for that. Did you resolve to track your blood pressure, glucose levels, or heart rate? There’s an app for that, and that, and that. Did you resolve to exercise more? There are a number of devices that can help you keep track of your daily steps, for example, that will connect to some of the apps above. Look at your list of health-related resolutions, and see if there’s a well-reviewed app that might help you meet those goals.  Find tips on how to navigate the vast world of apps.

Whatever you resolve to do this year, we wish you a very happy and healthy 2014.

Tell us your health related resolution for 2014 and what technology you’ll use to achieve it.  For some inspiring ideas, checkout the winners of last year’s Healthy New Year Video Contest.