Health Information Technology for the People: HIT in the SocialMediaSphere and Healthy People 2020

It really seems that Health Information Technology is becoming more about people. Organizations that implement it realize quickly that if the people receiving care do not feel the impact, then the benefits are fleeting, if they exist at all.

Two events last week demonstrated that even people who haven’t yet implemented Health Information Technology understand that just like social media, it should connect people to people, rather than people to technology.

The first event was the Social Media in Health Information Technology conference, which was very successful in my opinion, even with a brief writeup in The Washington Post. Most of the presentations are on the Web site. My slides are here:

In them, I did a brief reveal of the budding internal social network being deployed within Kaiser Permanente. I just learned today that the US Congress is also going to get a social network, which looks very similar. Great minds?

Beyond the presentations, the event captured the energy of Washington, DC, the nation’s most extroverted region. To prove this a little, I did some short video interviews of some of the principles, including Val (“Dr. Val”) Jones, from

The second thing I did was sit in on the discussion of a new Objective for Healthy People 2020, which is about Americans having access to their own health information (e.g. via personal health records). I’ve been a huge fan of Healthy People ever since I entered the field of medicine – the defined objective for the health of our residents are respected nationally and internationally, and it would be great for personal health records access to be one of these measures.

The Healthy People process is an open one, so the public will be invited to participate to make these objectives the right ones for our country, later this fall. The other thing I learned (and very much enjoy) about the Objectives is that they all include measurements of equitable access, to the diversity of people who live here.


One of the challenges of PHR's is user adoption. Designers will need to come up with solutions to make them more engaging and easy to use. The ability to add reminders to take medications or checking blood sugar levels can help. I think that it will take more then that though. PHR's that make it fun to manage your health will ultimately have a higher acceptance rate then those that are just tools.

Ted Eytan, MD