Consumer Directed Healthcare (CDH) is past the tipping point. Employers, employees, payers and providers have embraced these free market style health benefit plans that put consumers in the center of deciding where, when, and from whom they receive care---the customer now has more skin in the game (see May 2008. Consumer Directed Healthcare: A High Stakes Game; http://www.lindsayresnick.com/healthcare_strategy/2008/05/index.html ).
CDH success means changing the way people think about and deal with their healthcare choices. It takes practical decision support tools, credible information and increased connectivity throughout the healthcare system. Now, the newest consumer trend is allowing individuals and families to maintain their own online health records.
Personal Health Records (PHRs) enable consumers to have easy access to their health history and clinical make-up in order to manage benefit and medical decisions. It gives consumers more knowledge and control over their health information. In essence, it creates a smarter, better informed healthcare customer.
PHRs allow an individual to enter and record personal medical information such as medical history, prescriptions, examination results, office visit tracking and, lab and diagnostic test results. Based on PHR functionality, consumers can input or scan images, charts, graphs, and print reports.
The result is a PHR that provides an accurate, up-to-date summary of a person’s health status and medical history. The information is secured online and only accessible by the individual or, medical professionals with approved authorization, at the PHR owner’s discretion. In addition to a standalone, consumer-driven PHR, other models are emerging that take a more integrated approach allowing information to be input through other, secure sources such as physicians, pharmacists, home care and even linked-in claims data.
In a predominately paper-driven medical record world, online PHRs bring the portability and connectivity that make reliable information available, quickly. The result can be lifesaving in emergency situations, help avoid harmful medication interactions, reduce unnecessary tests and properly prepare consumers with the context to ask the “right” questions. Most importantly, PHRs give consumers the control they need to make informed, confident decisions.
Internet-based Personal Health Records are rapidly emerging. In a State of the Union address, the President called for every American to have one in ten years. This year, Microsoft launched HealthVault and, Google Health is testing its own PHR. It is estimated that there are more than 200 PHR products available in the market with a wide range of functionality, level of integration and “cool” features. To put these PHR products in context, here’s a brief video describing one company’s approach – https://www.activehealthphr.net/dtc/DTCSiteTour.aspx.
With consumers well on the way to being the centerpiece in the future of healthcare benefit and medical decision-making, PHRs will continue to grow in popularity and acceptance. A recent Markle Foundation survey shows that almost 80% of the public believes PHRs would provide significant benefits to individuals in managing their health, although many (57%) express concern over privacy and security of their information. PHRs are here to stay. They represent another step in healthcare’s technological movement built around content, community, commerce and connectivity.