Up at 5AM: The 5AM Solutions Blog

Personal Health Records: In or Out for 2012?

Posted on Thu, Dec 29, 2011 @ 06:00 AM

Saturday Evening PostWhether you call it a personal health record (PHR) or a personally-controlled health record (PcHR), the notion of a person-centered, self-managed electronic medical record is seen as both an essential byproduct/outcome of health IT and its core value. I certainly yearn for the day where I am at the center of my electronic health record, flowing my health information through and among my physicians, so that my entire health care team has a clear and complete view of my health. But away from people like me in the “health IT” field, apart from the DC echo chamber, do people care about managing their health, digitally? ...Or at all? Are PHRs on the 2012 “in” or “out” list?

A national study by the California HealthCare Foundation found that about 7% of Americans used a PHR, and achieved the hoped-for and hyped-about benefits: PHR users paid more attention to their health and took steps to improve it – especially those with chronic conditions, a group that is expected to benefit most by digital health engagement. This optimism was countered by Google’s decision this June to shutter its own PHR, Google Health, for "not having the broad impact that we hoped it would." Google Health will actually shut down this coming weekend.

It may be that the average person doesn’t track their health frequently enough to be good advertising eyeballs, or that the average user was aware of and concerned by its privacy policy to stay away from Google Health. But it may also speak to the fact that while 92% of Internet users use search engines, 93% of Americans don’t use a PHR, and that 50% of Americans suffer from obesity/diabetes “diabesity,” a chronic condition that 90% of them simply don’t know about, care about, or manage at all - digitally or otherwise.

We can lament the bleeding edges of health IT and hopefully stretch to enable it to reach across the digital divide to improve the health care of all people regardless of income. And there are many groups in line to fill the so-called void left by Google Health’s demise – with each passing day, through their doctors’ EMRs patient portals, through their insurance providers, and through numerous web and mobile apps, Americans will have access to PHRs. But will they bother to use them?

Please comment with your thoughts on the matter and let us know whether you use a PHR, including why or why not!

Tags: EHR, electronic health records, digital divide, PHR, personal health record, electronic health record, diabesity, personally-controlled health record, Google Health

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