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EHR and Market Growth

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Kaiser Permanente touts its "HealthConnect," billed as the largest private-sector electronic health record in the world, and "My Health Manager," a personal health record that allows members to e-mail their doctors, make or cancel appointments, and view lab results.

"Consumers expect easier and faster access to information, especially online, and that extends to information relating to the management of their own health," Anna-Lisa Silvestre, vice president for online services at Kaiser Permanente, said in a statement.

Despite all the innovations and potential of the individual health market, more can be done.

"The individual market has been growing for a while now, but it still doesn't make up enough of the market that insurers make it a huge focus," Liz Boehm, principal analyst for the Healthcare and Life Sciences in the technology and research firm of Forrester Research in Cambridge, MA, said in a recent e-mail.

Health insurers interested in the individual markets essentially need to refocus their plans: Learn more about customer preferences and what specifically drives loyalty, Boehm says.

Right now, there is little appreciation of individual insurance from consumers. In addition, health plans just aren't as creative as they should be. More needs to be done to get individual plans in line with group markets, such as guaranteed issue, controlled premiums, and tax credits.

"It's a struggle because health plans need to provide disease management—or at least utilization management—to encourage healthier living to bring medical costs under control." Health plans need to adopt what "consumer-friendly" companies use to "understand and cater to consumer demands as well as tuning their communication to make sure consumers understand what they're trying to say," Boehm says.

Joe Cantlupe

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