Give the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology some props, at least, for trying to start a dialogue with the vast majority of Americans who are not paid to track the government's IT initiatives.
ONC's official blog, Health IT Buzz, has two threads going on strategies for empowering consumers. Those threads come in response to a Nov. 1 posting by Jodi Daniel, who serves as director of the ONC's Office of Policy and Planning.
Daniel's tenure at ONC dates back five years to David Brailer's stint as the first national coordinator for health IT. So, it would have been easy for her to have concluded that she's been there and heard that after countless health IT meetings and discussions over the years. She didn't, and that's a good thing.
I've spent a chunk of time reading the many—for the most part thoughtful—comments posted on the site. They came in response to Daniel's request for public assistance in preparing a consumer engagement section of a redrafted Federal Health IT Strategic Plan.
I commend the commenters for their citizenship, and I hope readers will check out the ONC blog and, if so moved, participate in the dialogue.
One of the responders, Annie Stith, remarked that she has an antipathy for the phrase "healthcare consumers." I agree.
If this nation is ever to get control of its healthcare costs, its citizens will have to become much more than patient sufferers of existing ailments and supplicants to a healthcare system that charges them money to treat those ills.
But "healthcare consumers" connotes merely participants on one side of a plethora of commercial relationships and arm's-length transactions. It carries no sense of the responsibility, compassion and asymmetry of knowledge on the provider side or the pain, suffering and vulnerability on the "consumer" side. I vote for a return to "patient" until somebody comes up with a word or phrase that encompasses wellness, vulnerability and personal responsibility all at once.
While we're on the subject of reader input on federal health IT initiatives, our 21st annual Modern Healthcare/Modern Physician Survey of Executive Opinions on Key Information Technology is ready for your participation.
Part of the fun in this year's IT survey is that we're asking readers to grade the federal government on its administration thus far of taxpayer-funded IT initiatives.
To ensure the validity of responses, our survey is by invitation only. To request an invitation, please e-mail Rebecca Mielcarski, our special projects and research editor. We'll have our package of stories based on what you tell us online and in the Feb. 21, 2011, issue of Modern Healthcare.