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Consumer eHealth

Consumer eHealth Program


The Consumer eHealth Program supports efforts by the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC) to fulfill one of its core strategies: the empowerment of individuals to improve their health and health care through Health IT. The collective aims of this eHealth program are best summarized by the objectives known within ONC as the "Three A's": Access, Action, and Attitudes.

Access Increase ACCESS to health information: consumers and patients are active participants in the secure, easy, and electronic flow of information pertinent to their health and health care. Under existing law, you already have a legal right [PDF - 77 KB] to see and get a copy of your health information from doctors, hospitals and other health care providers such as pharmacies and nursing homes, as well as from your health plan. As health care providers switch from paper to electronic records, ONC is working to ensure that consumers and patients have access to this information electronically, and in ways compatible with emerging consumer health technologies.
Action Enable consumers to take ACTION based on their health information by encouraging the development of tools and services that help make electronic health information useful and meaningful for them. With recent technological and legal changes, many consumers have greater access than ever before to electronic health information. By itself, this access may provide benefits for consumers and patients who want to take greater control over their personal health. But in combination with new tools and services, this access opens the doors to numerous opportunities to understand and use information to help all of us make better choices to maintain and improve health.
Attitudes Shift ATTITUDES: Consumers think and act as partners in their care with the support of e-health tools. Sometimes patients and caregivers encounter barriers when trying to take a more active role in their care. Doctors may be unaccustomed to patients who ask a lot of questions, and patients may worry about appearing to be "difficult" or disrespectful. In other cases, consumers may simply lack the information they need to make informed decisions, or not have the tools they need to make sense of the information they do have or to work with their providers to help them make better choices. Creating stronger care partnerships will require a shift in attitudes by both consumers and health care providers.

Selected eHealth Programs

Through its Consumer eHealth Program, ONC participates in numerous initiatives that contribute to meeting these objectives. Below, you'll find a partial list of eHealth programs that support these efforts. Note that many of these also have facets that extend to health care providers and other groups.

ACCESS-Related Programs
"Meaningful Use" Incentives The Federal government provides financial incentives to help health care providers offset the initial costs of converting to Electronic Health Records (EHRs). In exchange, those providers must demonstrate "meaningful use" of these EHRs by implementing certain functionalities. For example, there are incentives to provide patients with value-added services like same-day clinical summaries of office visits, and a commitment to provide electronic records within three business days of receiving a request. In Stage 2 of Meaningful Use, providers are required to enable patients with a way to view online, download and transmit their health records to a destination of their choosing. Learn more about Meaningful use at HealthIT.gov.
Blue Button

The Blue Button Initiative is a public-private partnership to empower consumers with simple and secure electronic access to their health information from a variety of sources in a format they can use. More than 500 companies have pledged their support for Blue Button and as a result, millions of Americans have the ability to access their digital health information on the websites of participating doctors’ offices, hospitals, drug stores, and health insurance companies. The initiative is built on a portfolio of national standards that support citizens being able to access their health data and use it to achieve their health goals.

The Blue Button is a nationally recognized symbol that indicates to consumers where they can get their own health information electronically from doctors, hospitals, health insurance plans, pharmacies, and other sources.

Learn more at healthit.gov/bluebutton.
ACTION-Related Programs
Innovation Challenges "Innovation Challenges" are public contests for technology developers to create tools related to a particular problem or need. ONC periodically issues innovation challenges to spur innovation related to consumer health information.

Learn more about past and current challenges, including the Surgeon General's Healthy Apps Challenge; the Discharge Follow Up Appointment Challenge ; the EHR Accessibility Challenge , and the Blue Button Mashup Challenge .

Learn about future challenges at challenge.gov.

Txt4Health Nearly 79 million Americans have "pre-diabetes," a condition that - left unaddressed - puts them at higher risk for developing type 2 (adult-onset) diabetes. Txt4Health is an interactive, text-messaging based tool that helps users complete an assessment for diabetes risk, and then offers personalized programs of information, goal tracking, and reminders customized to their health status and location. Today, through the ONC Beacon Community program, Txt4Health is available in Crescent City (New Orleans), Southeast Michigan, and Greater Cincinnati.

Learn more about Txt4Health .

Learn more about ONC's Beacon Communities project.

ATTITUDES-Related Programs
Blue Button Campaign ONC launched a campaign in Fall 2014 that aimed to increase consumer awareness of the increasing availability of electronic access to their health records from a variety of sources, and to boost interest among consumers about accessing their own health information. The campaign is being bolstered by commitments from public and private sector stakeholders to participate in a national, coordinated effort to raise the profile of Blue Button among the general public, including a rollout of Blue Button PSAs. Campaign Materials
HealthIT.gov Patients and Families Pages In 2011, ONC launched HealthIT.gov to serve as a "one-stop shop" for patients and families to learn about health IT tools and to hear stories about how Health IT and greater engagement has benefitted real patients. The site also offers a toolkit for organizations who want to educate their employees, customers, congregants, members, or other constituents about health IT. In the near future, HealthIT.gov will offer additional resources like educational animations to make information about health IT more accessible and understandable to a wider audience. Learn more by visiting the Patients and Families pages at HealthIT.gov.
Sharecare ONC joined Sharecare as a featured "expert" partner. Sharecare is an interactive health site where people go to find reliable information about health care, and over time, ONC will contribute knowledge and content related to electronic health records, eHealth, and other health IT topics about which patients and their caregivers have questions. Learn more at Sharecare .