PHR – Key for Improving Senior Care???

In the AHIP (America’s Health Insurance Plans) magazine Coverage (Sept+Oct 2007), there is an article on using Personal Health Records to improve healthcare for seniors. I am reading it as I type my commentary here, but I start with some skepticism.

  • Apparently CMS (Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services) commissioned a 18-month pilot to help design a user-friendly PHR for Medicare beneficiaries.
  • The article gives a good, simple definition of PHR as being “designed for use by individual consumers and contain a core set of medical information that includes physician office visits, medications, lab results, and general health information.”
  • It talks about advance PHRs having a care alert which is a signal to consumers that they are due for a treatment of test. [I have talked with a few PHR vendors about this. I can’t agree more. It is great to have the data, but the systems need a proactive communication mechanism to push timely content to consumers so that they take action. (shameless plug…what a great opportunity for someone like Silverlink to offer an automated call program that takes automated triggers from the PHR and launches a pre-defined, personalized call to the consumer)]
  • It offers an interesting statistic that I haven’t seen before – 100M people (of the 249M insured) have at least one chronic disease.
  • CMS previously rolled out a bare-bones PHR at which had 2M of the 42M Medicare beneficiaries register. [Of course, registration means nothing. How many actively log-in, update information, and use the information?]
  • Plans participating in the pilot include HIP of NY, Arkansas BCBS, BCBSLA, Humana, Kaiser Permanente, UPMC Health Plan, Aetna, and Medcore Health Plan.

“Health information technology will improve health outcomes and contain costs and help provide meaningful dialogue between members and providers so tests are not conducted unnecessarily.” (Laura Landry, Director of IT, BCBS Louisiana)

  • It talks about AHIP and the BCBSA (Blue Cross Blue Shield Association) collaborating to make PHRs transferable across plans which is vital for success.
  • Apparently, the groups have also collaborated to define a model PHR which would include physician encounters, names of clinicians and facilities, medications, lab results, family history, immunizations, health risk factors, advance directives, allergies, alerts, and physician directed plans of care.
  • The article also highlights another issue which is true for many solutions which is density of utilization by provider. For example, if the physician is expected to use a tool but only 5% of their patient base uses it, it will be hard to get them to change their workflow. If 90% of their patients use the same tool or a tool that provides a common interface to the physician, then they will be more likely to interact using the technology.
  • A representative from Humana says that seniors are using the data to enhance their dialogue with physicians. [I think this is a key point. I spearheaded the rollout of a “physician kit” at Express Scripts which was a set of forms that the patient could download to take to the physician’s office to discuss generics, mail order, and their condition. The key was that us communicating with either party was only so effective. We had to drive the two parties most involved in care to talk together with the facts in front of them.]
    • The article later talks about several of the demonstration projects that offer printouts for discussion or putting in the patient’s chart.
  • Humana members can also give access to family members and providers through their user names and eventually direct access.
  • Kaiser’s PHR allows the member to see when a lab was done, the results, and send questions to the physician directly through the tool.
  • It talks about one of the PHRs which automatically hides certain information from the provider but can be unhidden by the patient.
  • I thought the article was going to skip the subject of whether this population would adopt this technology, but towards the end it points out that according the US Census Bureau only 35% of people over age 65 have computers and only 29% have access to the Internet. [Of course, this will change as the Baby Boomers move into this phase of their life.]

senior-w-computer.jpgThe other critical component in my mind is that these things have to be automatically populated. The patient can contribute family history, allergies, and OTC utilization, but why should I have to type in my physician visits or prescriptions. That should all come directly into a system. There is a lot to prove here. The concepts are sound and rationale, but it’s a complex system with limited historical adoption of consistent technologies. People won’t stand for having to rebuild a new PHR every year as vendors and companies cycle through trying to settle on a few core products.

3 Responses to “PHR – Key for Improving Senior Care???”

  1. The key here is ease of use. Patients should be able to transfer information seamlessly. You can look at the social media industry that is using tools like OpenID and Facebook connect.

  2. There should be some kind centralized medical records facility that keep track of all the records. The doctor, hospitals and insurance company would have to report everything to that facility. Right now just to handle medical records for doctors and hospitals takes a lot of time and money. That another thing our government should work on instead of pointing fingers


  1. ICMCC Articles » Blog Archive » PHR – Key for Improving Senior Care??? - November 30, 2007

    […] for seniors. I am reading it as I type my commentary here, but I start with some skepticism.” Article George Van Antwerp, Patient Centric Healthcare, 30 November […]

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