ONC: Health apps among big trends of 2012

By Brian Dolan
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ONC's Dr. Farzad MostashariLast week Dr. Farzad Mostashari, the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology at the US Department of Health and Human Services, penned a column on his top five health IT predictions for the year ahead. Not surprisingly, Mostashari expects consumers to use eHealth to get more involved in managing their own health.

"I believe this year we will see consumers and patients use information technology to become better informed about their health and more engaged with their own care than ever before," Mostashari writes. "In large part, this will happen because it’s becoming easier for consumers to electronically access their own information. Personal health records are becoming easier to use as more data holders make it possible to download information through tools like Blue Button. Many health care providers are setting up patient portals which are directly connected to their EHRs. The Medicare and Medicaid EHR Incentive Programs already require providers to give patients access to their electronic health information, and I anticipate future stages will build on that notion. And the work that is being done on standards and interoperability will help make consumer access to their health information more seamless and more useful."

Mostashari also noted his office's push to encourage developers to create more meaningful health apps through its series of app challenges that it puts on through Health 2.0, which received a $6 million grant to conduct the challenges.

"In addition, developers are coming out with more apps for mobile devices that make it easier for consumers and patients to get information about different diseases and track their own health over time. Along those lines, several Beacon Communities have launched txt4health, a consumer engagement campaign that uses cell phone text messaging to deliver information about diabetes care and management," Mostashari writes. "ONC will diligently keep encouraging the marketplace to develop mobile apps and other consumer-friendly platforms that get patients engaged by sponsoring challenges like the Healthy Apps Challenge. Once consumers start to see their own information, they will be more empowered to be partners in their own care and come to expect that providers will use health IT as a tool to help deliver high-quality care."

Late last year the ONC’s Office of the Chief Privacy Officer announced that it was looking to “explore the attitudes and preferences of a diverse sample of consumers with respect to the communication of health related information on mobile phones and devices, including text messaging.”

Read Mostashari's predictions in-full over at the government's Health IT Buzz blog.