How Providers Can Make PHRs Relevant

Greg Freeman for HealthLeaders Media, December 5, 2011

This article appears in the November 2011 issue of HealthLeaders magazine.

Personal health records have been a forward-thinking idea for some time now, but the rewards and requirements of achieving meaningful use are putting more pressure on providers to adopt a system that allows easy access for the patient but a reliable conduit of information from the health provider. Of the many models available, how does a provider know which way to go?

The key may be creating a PHR that is actually used by the patient and provider, not just offering a system that sounds good on paper but might not be what either party wants. In the past, healthcare providers have found that some PHRs aren’t user-friendly for the patient; the data is often incomplete or inaccurate, and many doctors don’t trust the accuracy of records created and maintained by patients. The result is that the PHR isn’t utilized to any significant extent.

One of the first decisions when considering a PHR is whether to have it tethered to the electronic medical record so that data can be linked automatically, or to have the PHR be a standalone system in which information must be entered. The tethered (or shared) option is winning favor among many providers, says G. Daniel Martich, MD, FACP, chief medical information officer and vice president for physician services at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. UPMC uses a PHR system called HealthTrak, a Web-based portal that allows patients at its 20 hospitals and 400 outpatient sites to feed data into the electronic record. More than 70,000 patients currently use the system.

UPMC explored both options originally, developing its tethered HealthTrak system but also partnering with Google and its untethered PHR called Google Health. Even before the recent demise of Google Health, UPMC was seeing better results with the tethered option, which saw higher participation and more positive feedback.



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