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Is the Time Right for PHRs?

February 23, 2011
by Charlene Marietti
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Whether or not personal health records (PHR) will be considered a necessary component of complying with meaningful use, they are increasingly being viewed as essential elements of the medical record.

Most consumers—each and every one of them a patient—haven't had much of a stake in the national initiatives to move paper-based records to electronic health records (EHR). And they haven’t had any incentives to track their health information. Not on paper, and certainly not with a PHR.

Most patients don't understand the value of an EHR, let alone a PHR. A survey of consumers reported in a study released today by New York-based PwC's Health Research Institute entitled "Putting Patients into Meaningful Use" reports that 44 percent don't even know what an EHR is. And another 30 percent don't know how it affects them.

So it challenges individuals who attempt to keep their own PHR. Computer-based and online PHRs currently available for personal use are cumbersome and difficult to keep up to date. And those hosted by payers and populated with claims data have limited value.

PHRs of the future are very different, says Bruce Henderson, PwC Director and National Leader, EHR-HIE Practice and a member of PwC's Health Research Institute. They will be portals that source clinical records and aggregate patient data created by various EHRs across the community to present a single unified view of the information. Patients can not only view their records, they will be able to input data. For example, a COPD patient might record daily weight readings.

Education and communication are the biggest challenges to making this transition to PHRs. So far, "caregivers have missed on this one," Henderson states. "But those who spend the time and invest in the initial efforts in engaging the patient have a very satisfied and engaged patient. And once they get over that initial hurdle, most physicians say 'we should have done this years ago.'"

PwC's full report can be accessed at