Dr. Karen DeSalvo says to refocus health data on people, not records

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There is an opportunity for cloud computing and data analytics to play a larger role than they currently do in providing patients access to information, suggested Karen DeSalvo, MD, acting assistant secretary of HHS, on a visit to The Wall Street Journal's New York offices.

Dr. DeSalvo spoke to WSJ reporters on the opportunities and challenges in health IT, and said one place to start is to center discussion regarding health data around patients themselves instead of health records. Doing so, she said, may help alleviate the tension around information blocking.

"Our policy shift in the last couple of years has been to move to the person at the center, with the data about that person being the focus of what we want to standardize and be able to aggregate or move when and where it matters for the consumer," Dr. DeSalvo said. "The reason I talk about that shift to the person is because it's very deliberately away form the electronic health record as being the source or center of the health IT universe."

Creating this space between patient data and EHRs means individuals don't necessarily have to worry about how to retrieve data from the EHR or from the provider; instead, patients can access data via the cloud or another platform that allows them to be in control and leverage that information, according to Dr. DeSalvo.

"People are frustrated because they don't have access to their information," Dr. DeSalvo said. "We shouldn't have to be going through as many steps as we used to. Making that available to the consumer is job No. 1."

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