The era of patient engagement is here.

“This is the era of patient engagement,” Dr. John D. Halamka announced at an April 14, 2010, panel at Suffolk University. “The challenge facing patients, health care providers, and insurers is how to manage all the information available and encourage a dialogue that can turn data into knowledge and knowledge into wisdom.”

Titled “Leading Innovation in Consumer E-Health,” and attended by nearly 80 students, health care professionals, and entrepreneurs, the event featured leaders in an emerging field:

Chief Information Officer of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Harvard Medical School, Halamka chairs the New England Healthcare Exchange Network and the US Healthcare Information Technology Standards Panel.

A business analyst with Partners Healthcare, Robert Havasy is developing a mobile healthcare strategy for Partners’ Center for Connected Health

John Kelly directs e-business architecture for Harvard Pilgrim Health Care’s e-commerce activities.

The panel was moderated by Dr. Thomas Sullivan, a cardiologist and former president of the Massachusetts Medical Society.

E-Health Innovation Panel

Robert Havasy, John Kelly, John Halamka & Thomas Sullivan

Although computerized medical records have been in use for nearly 30 years, Kelly said the Obama administration’s commitment of $46 billion for health information technology (through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009) has galvanized the healthcare community to share information and strategies to make a new system work effectively and economically. “I have a lot of faith that the investment in health information technology will drive reform in healthcare,” Kelly said.

Issues of privacy, security, and delivery are all being assessed, and Halamka reported that important layers of protection and patient consent are being built into systems for storing individuals’ health information. Havasy observed that more people now have cell phones than have access to computers, so cell phones and smart phones will be essential tools for enabling patients to make better health decisions. “We’re looking for clear regulatory guidelines to bring standards to the mobile space,” he said. Kelly added that the most effective way to engage patients in choices about their healthcare is to reach them within their communication comfort zones – whether by email, cell phone, telephone, social networking, or employer groups.

“The best way to improve care is to encourage a dialogue between providers and patients,” contended Sullivan. “We need to make sure technology helps make that happen.”

Suffolk’s Healthcare Administration Programs co-hosted the panel, along with the Institute for Executive Education, the Information Systems and Operations Management Department, and the Alumni Association.

Associated media:

  • View a video of the event (.wmv)
  • View Mitchell Weisberg's photo album of the event.

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