Yesterday I had the rare opportunity to participate in a “first”—attending two consumer health informatics events in Washington, DC—a first because consumer health informatics is just now reaching center stage. Consumer health informatics has been around for more than a decade, but if you follow the history of health information technology during that time—it is obvious that NOW is the time for broad engagement. While there are multiple proposed definitions of “Consumer Health Informatics”, I’ll use the one from Wikipedia—as the scope of consumer informatics seems to change daily as new ideas, initiatives and technologies evolve.
The morning program was the National eHealth Collaborative (NeHC), in charge of providing “operational, logistical and technical support to the committee structure that administers the National Health Information Network (NHIN) Exchange.” Yesterday’s event kicked off the Consumer Consortium on eHealth—an wonderfully diverse group, who heard of the Office of the National Coordinator of Health Information Technology (ONC) plan for engaging consumers from Lygeia Ricciardi, who energized and motivated as the new Senior Policy Advisor for Consumer eHealth at ONC. The Consumer group will meet face-to-face and virtually over the next two years to create a shared vision for consumer engagement in eHealth. Five different work groups will work on teasing out the best practices for consumer health.
Luckily, the meetings were back-to-back and few blocks apart, so I walked down to the next event. The afternoon was a live and streaming video broadcast Media Briefing on Behavioral Informatics for Health. The purpose was to showcase two special journal issues—an inaugural issue of the new Translational Behavioral Medicine and a special edition of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, entitled, Cyberinfrastructure for Consumer Health.
If you are wondering what “behavioral informatics” is, here is a working definition posed by the Society of Behavioral Medicine:
The study of the use of information and communication technologies by patients and health care providers as well as the design, implementation, and evaluation of behavior change interventions delivered through advanced technologies. The goal is to promote the appropriate use of technologies to improve health and healthcare.
The event is a follow on to the 2009 National Research Council report on Computational Technology for Effective Health Care, which argued for “re-balancing the portfolio of investments in health IT to place a greater emphasis on providing cognitive support for health care providers, patients, and family care givers.” The moderator of yesterday’s briefing, David Ahern provides insight on this topic on the Informatics for Consumer Health blog—a joint blog supported by government health agencies. If you’d like to check out some additional comments via Twitter, the hashtag is #BInformatics.
The first presenter, Bonnie Spring, (Editor-in-Chief, Translational Behavioral Medicine: Practice, Policy, Research), brought up that patients often “choose exercise, low fat diet or seeing a dietitian” rather than medication, but only 20 percent of providers address this decision, relying on medication instead. She pointed out that “behavioral choices affect most chronic conditions, yet these choices do not happen in the physician’s office.”
Co-sponsors of this event were the Society of Behavioral Medicine (SBM), the journals Translational Behavioral Medicine: Practice, Policy and Research (TBM); the American Journal of Preventive Medicine (AJPM); the American College of Preventive Medicine (ACPM), the Association for Prevention Teaching and Research (APTR); and the American Medical Informatics Association (AMIA).
To participate in the conversation on how to improve health care in communities, join in the open discussion on Facebook (you do need a Facebook profile), Transformation Has Begun. This is a new outreach strategy to determine areas of funding by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. In short, the tipping point has arrived—this is an exciting time and a great opportunity for dietitians to be an active participant and advocate for consumer –and behavioral health informatics.