By Jennifer Larson, contributor
September 4, 2012 - Have you ever requested and looked at your own personal health record (PHR)? If you haven’t, you’re not alone. Most nurses haven’t done this, let alone members of the general public.
But many health care experts hope that will change soon.
Last year the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) launched a consumer campaign to encourage consumers to become more involved in managing their own health through information technology. Part of the campaign was a two-fold pledge--one for data-holders and one for non-data-holders--that people could sign as a way to illustrate their commitment to helping people access their personal health information.
This year, the ONC is continuing to develop the campaign. It is holding a 2012 Consumer Health IT Summit on September 10 to discuss new policies and strategies to encourage and empower consumers--and tools to help them.
Nursing organizations are encouraging their members to pledge to access their own personal health record, too. The American Nurses Association (ANA) is asking members to sign the pledge, as is the Alliance for Nursing Informatics (ANI), which is sponsoring “Ask for Your e-Health Record Week” September 10-14.
The pledge is important for a few reasons, noted Darryl Roberts, PhD, MS, RN, senior policy fellow for the National Center for Nursing Quality with the ANA.
First, it can be helpful for any consumer to be able to access and scrutinize his or her own health record for accuracy and completeness. While nurses are providers, educators and patient advocates, they are also consumers and patients; they, too, need to take care of themselves, and staying on top of their own health information is one way to make sure they are doing that.
“Nurses are so focused on the people for whom they provide care that they often forget they’re people,” said Roberts.
Secondly, this will help nurses be able to encourage their patients to access their health information, as well, and then use that knowledge to better manage their own health and health care. Nurses will have the firsthand knowledge of the process and can use that information to guide their patients in taking those steps.
“It’s more valuable to the patient if the nurse has experienced it,” noted Roberts.
Susan Hull, MSN, RN, co-chairman of the ANI’s consumer e-health and engagement task force, agreed that nurses can and do play very important roles in influencing the way that people use technology in health care.
“We have an opportunity to experience our own e-health technology and then advocate for patients,” said Hull.
According to a recent ANI survey, most nurses don’t use a personal health record or access their information through a secure portal. That may be because they are unsure how to go about this task. That means it’s time to learn.
“It’s like a new dance we’ve never done,” Hull said. “We need to start getting out there on the dance floor and figuring it out.”
Once nurses are more comfortable with this process, they can be role models for their patients. They can educate their patients on how and why they should use health technology to stay on top of their own health information. They can also encourage patients to be more proactive in managing their own health care and not just be passive recipients of care.
“You are a much more effective caregiver if you are a more effective care recipient,” said Roberts.
For more information:
Read and take the ONC pledge on the ANA website.
Download ANA’s toolkit (PDF) to accessing and using your personal health records.
Download ANI’s pledge to support the ONC’s Consumer Health eProgram; you can also take the pledge on ANI’s eHealth Facebook page or follow the discussion on Twitter at #Ask4YourRecord.
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