A pair of recent announcements by the American Medical Association pique one’s curiosity. About a month ago, the largest doctor group announced a venture with Covisint, a subsidiary of Compuware, to create physician portals. Today, the AMA said it intends to work with Microsoft to facilitate patients access to and use of HealthVault, Microsoft’s personal health record product. The access would be through the portal Covisint is creating. The portal will include electronic prescription capabilities, reference databases and online medical education. The AMA hopes to have the portal available by early 2010. The stated rational for adding HealthVault access is to allow a patient’s physician to see all the medical records and information a patient has stored in his or her PHR.
Given the multitude of physician portals and PHRs available in the marketplace, the AMA apparently sees some value in creating a portal, and access to PHRs, which is controlled by physicians. It could be that the AMA has concerns about the implications for doctors’ control of their practices and patients’ care if other entities control the flow of information and services and provide important connections among the patient, various providers and payers. As electronic medical records and PHRs expand, the value of not only the substantive information but its various possible uses, becomes greater and an ability to influence or control that use may be very important. These announcements may reflect the wider struggle among patients, payers and providers to control health care delivery.