Senator Collins Chairs HELP Committee Hearing, Questions Experts on Ways to Use Health IT to Improve Patient Care


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      Washington, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Susan Collins chaired a hearing of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee that sought to identify ways to improve care through patient access to their electronic health records. This hearing was the fifth in a series the Committee has held to better understand and find ways to address the current challenges with fully integrating Health Information Technology in American health care.
      Throughout the hearing, the three expert witnesses underscored two consistent themes necessary for success: increasing the usability and interoperability of electronic medical record systems and deepening patient engagement in access to their health information.  After hearing each of their compelling testimonies, Senator Collins spoke directly to witness Eric Dishman—a cancer survivor and the General Manager for Health and Life Sciences at Intel Corporation— regarding the serious, additional challenges older Americans, especially in rural parts of Maine and across the country, face in accessing their medical records online.
     Senator Collins began, “Mr. Dishman, you obviously are a technology expert… you live in a part of the country where access to the Internet is very common, where the population tends to be younger. That’s very different from the state that I represent. Maine is the oldest state in the nation. There are parts of our state where Internet access is simply not available at all…it’s one thing to say patients should be accessing their portal…it’s a lot harder if you are an elderly person without a computer living in rural Maine where access to the Internet is very limited or non existent…”
      In response to Senator Collins’ point, Mr. Dishman replied that he “could not agree more… when we go to design technologies, we focus on dual eligibles in rural parts of the country and if we can make those systems work for them and there we know there are going to work elsewhere.… We are going to need to aim these systems at probably ten different levels of health literacy and make sure that we have the tools in place…”
      According to the Office of the National Coordinator for Health ITs Consumer Survey, only 28 percent of Americans were offered access to online medical records in 2013.  Fifty-four percent didn’t access their records, and 21 percent viewed them only once or twice.