It's only been a few short weeks since the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT's new patient engagement chief came aboard, but she's already thinking about ways to jazz up the office's efforts.
Last month, ONC announced the appointment of Lana Moriarty as its acting director for consumer e-health, after the previous director departed in July. In the role, she'll be tasked with advising national coordinator Karen DeSalvo, M.D., on matters of patient engagement and health information access. Moriarty is on a six-month detail from HRSA, but she's applied to take over the job permanently and is already mulling over ways to bolster patient engagement.
With all the focus on whether providers are meaningfully using electronic health records to improve care delivery, Moriarty's curious about the other side, she told me in a phone interview Friday. Are patients able to use electronic health records in a meaningful way and, if not, what can ONC do to change that?
"There are a lot of questions around now that we're trying to liberate the data and make it more liquid, how is it being used and what are the concerns of the consumers?" she says. "We still have a lot of consumer feedback that I feel we need to connect on our end, and I think we're going to be making some efforts in doing that soon."
Moriarty replaces Lygeia Ricciardi, who pioneered the position, but announced her resignation in June amid reshuffling in the agency. She'll pick up right where the previous patient-engagement czar left off, continuing to push ONC's Blue Button initiative, which aims to allow patients access to their health records online at the touch of a button. She believes momentum is building around the initiative, with 500-plus members and some communities interested in doing workshops around the topic of consumer health information exchange.
In a previous lifetime, Moriarty worked as a gender specialist for the World Bank Group, fighting to make sure that the desires and perspectives of women were being addressed around the world. Now, she's something of a patient/consumer specialist, working to ensure that the health care users' perspective is touched upon in everything that ONC does.
"My real role here is on the internal side. I am working across every organization within ONC to make sure that the consumers' voice stays on the agenda — to make sure we're considering that angle in everything we do, whether it's policy, privacy or security," she says.
ONC has a number of consumer-focused work groups, she says, to consider those different angles. She's doing what she can to help keep the consumer perspective at the forefront. Moriarty believes that her predecessor left her a solid structure to continue the push for stronger patient engagement.
"It's exciting to work in this area," Moriarty says. "Lygeia has paved the way for so much of this work and really making health IT kind of tangible and available to Americans, so this, for me, is such an important area to move forward. And with IT rapidly expanding the whole data universe, this is such a ripe time to focus on consumers and to try to build momentum around what we've already done. I'm really hoping to expand on the foundation that's already been created here."
What do you hope to see ONC's new patient engagement chief focus her efforts on? Share your thoughts in the comment section, and check out our ongoing series on patient engagement here for more on the topic.