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Report: Health IT requires greater awareness and innovation to gain widespread use

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Lack of awareness and the need for additional innovation are among the barriers preventing the widespread use of electronic health-related tools among consumers, according to a new report (.pdf) from the Bipartisan Policy Center.

The report blames the scarcity of such tools due to a lack of Internet connectivity, low health literacy, and unmet technical or information support needs, as well as the lack of current usefulness and usability of many of these tools and concerns about privacy and security.

Health IT boosts consumer engagement by giving patients easier access to education and self-care information, interactive self-monitoring and tracking tools, and facilitates creation of an online communities of peers, the report says.

The report also finds that the adoption of electronic tools among clinicians, hospitals, and other healthcare providers is not widespread, despite their reducing costs and improving the quality and experience of care for patients.

In addition, the report argues that electronic tools also help patients interact more effectively with the health care system, enabling them to access and download information from their electronic health records, securely communicate with their providers from remote locations, and manage health care transactions online.

To speed the adoption of electronic tools to increase consumer engagement and improve healthcare, the BPC calls for, among other things, increased federal and state incentives.

The 2009 Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act--better known as the HITECH Act--provided financial incentives for care giver adoption of electronic health records software. To date, the federal government has made $7.7 billion worth of incentive payments.

According to the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT, more than half of eligible U.S. healthcare professionals and more than 75 percent of eligible hospitals have registered to participate in the Medicare or Medicaid EHR incentive programs.

Greg Slabodkin is a freelance reporter.

For more:
-download the report, "Improving Quality and Reducing Costs in Health Care: Engaging Consumers Using Electronic Tools"

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