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How Providers Can Make PHRs Relevant

Greg Freeman for HealthLeaders Media, December 5, 2011

The corporate communications department also helps market to patients by providing leaflets and screen savers for computers in the exam rooms that encourage patients to ask their doctors about HealthTrak. Sign-ups average about 700 per week, up from 500 last year, Martich says.

Patients with the most diagnoses—the sickest—are the most likely to use a PHR, says Holly Miller, MD, MBA, FHIMSS, chief medical officer with MedAllies, a company in Fishkill, NY, that provides PHR and other technical support for healthcare providers. She also is on the board of directors of HIMSS and is former CMIO for Cleveland-based University Hospitals and Health Systems.

“There have been many instances of PHRs that were relatively disappointing in terms of patient adoption,” Miller says. “Over the last 10 years there has been a great deal of research about what patients want and what they respond to. What has become clear in my mind is that patients are looking for tools that allow for communication and services with their physicians, but they also respond to PHRs that connect them with communities of other patients.”

Allowing patients to connect with others through the PHR can encourage participation, Miller says, because many patients appreciate being part of a virtual community of people with the same diagnosis.

“We also have seen that if the physician suggests they use the PHR, the patient is far more likely to use it,” Miller says. “They respond well when the doctor says this is a way that the two of them can stay in touch better and more directly.”   

Martich notes that any PHR plans should include a proxy procedure for minors. Parents will want access to their children’s records, and teens may require special arrangements. State laws will vary on proxies, he says.

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