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OPM Reports on PHR Use By Federal Employees

By February 25, 2010Commentary

The federal Office of Personnel Management oversees the Federal Employees Health Benefit Plan, which covers about 8 million federal employees, dependents and retirees.  FEHBP contracts with other 250 health plans around the country to provide health care coverage and it imposes various requirements on those plans.  One set of requirements relates to use of health information technology to improve quality and reduce costs.  For the last few years OPM has released a report on those HIT efforts.   (OPM Report)

This year’s report gives some insights into PHR use in particular.  It is not unreasonable to assume that the FEHBP experience is representative of the broader commercial population.  In 2010 about 86% of all FEHBP plans, covering 96% of members, will offer PHRs, up from 51% in 2007.  Use by members, however, is extremely low and functionality is not great.  Most plans’ PHRs do not have the capability, for example, to capture data directly from provider EMRs, partly because so few providers have EMRs.  Almost 60% of plans reported usage by 5% or fewer of their members.  Many PHRs do have cost and quality comparison tools, HRAs and other wellness features.

In a separate story, Revolution Health has abandoned its effort to provide a PHR to consumers for the time being.  (Revolution PHR) Apparently there was very low uptake in use of its PHR and the company said it believed the PHR was ahead of its time.  Apparently the PHR had only a few hundred users.  Other PHR sources, for example Kaiser Permanente, have reported more robust use of their product.  PHRs could be useful to some consumers, particularly those who are comfortable with technology, but to date they seem to be having a minimal impact.

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