Have you found that technology and healthcare haven’t meshed well? Is getting a doctor to respond to email almost impossible? Is keeping online health records up-to-date like pulling teeth? Sadly, in an age of the web, wi-fi and social media, so-called e-health lags far behind compared to other industries.

That will change soon with the help of the federal government. Officials have begun a multibillion-dollar effort to get doctors and hospitals to use health information technology and are now reaching out to patients and families to help them become e-patients.

The Department of Health and Human Services, along with other top health IT officials, have begun to outline a plan to expand access, promote innovation and ensure privacy while giving patients and families a bigger role in their own healthcare. This plan is expected to enhance quality and improves coordination and communication among multiple healthcare providers and their patients.

Here’s the thinking behind the plan: Engaged patients – those who actively seek to know more about and manage their own health – are more likely than others to participate in preventive and healthy practices, self-manage their conditions and achieve better outcomes. Ultimately, by getting patients to become e-patients, they can reduce the risk of costly repeat hospitalizations and medical errors.

The e-health movement has gone far beyond searching for health information on the Internet and online connections between people with certain conditions, especially through social media. It includes expanding access to tools like secure email messaging between patients and doctors, electronic health records that patients can eventually transmit and add to, as well as mobile health apps to promote wellness and monitor chronic diseases.