A Personal Health Record (PHR) is a device or software that allows patients to keep track of and manage their health information. Many PHRs are contained on a USB thumb drive designed to be carried at all times. Some USB drives are built into bracelets, necklaces, or are shaped so they will fit into a wallet. Other PHRs might be web-based using a patient portal such as Microsoft Health Vault, or the now-defunct Google Health.
According to a brief by Deloitte, PHRs may provide the means for consumers to enhance self-care, which can help reduce the cost of health care. Despite the benefits offered by PHR, they have not been very popular. Several factors have limited their adoption, such as the lack of interoperability standards, the slow adoption rate of electronic health records (EHR), and privacy concerns. Many older patients are also reluctant to embrace technology.
However, another recent article states that nearly all web users have searched for medical information online, most of them after talking with their doctor. The Deloitte article also goes on to state that twice as many patients belonging to generations X and Y want PHRs compared to Baby Boomers and seniors. Personal health records seem to be gaining popularity.
Several of the final meaningful use requirements require patients to have electronic access to their health records. In case you are unfamiliar, the HITECH Act will reimburse physicians for purchasing EHR systems and using them according to established guidelines known as meaningful use. These requirements ensure a minimum level of use and create a standard set of features all EHRs must provide.
For example, providers are required to provide electronic copies of health information including test results, problem lists, medication lists, and medicinal allergy lists. PHRs can also help exchange clinical information between providers, which will help improve patient care and reduce the amount of paperwork required. PHRs can also store summary of care records, which are useful when patients transition to another provider or care setting.
Providers should consider offering their patients a PHR. They should find a PHR system that is flexible, and will help them qualify for meaningful use. PHRs have much more legitimacy in the eyes of the patient when they come recommended from physicians, compared to direct business-to-consumer sales. Providers may even be able to partner with a vendor to retail PHRs to their patient. In these days of ever-declining reimbursements, it helps to have legitimate additional revenue streams. In any case, PHRs will be a crucial part of qualifying for meaningful use.