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Physician Views of PHRs

By February 17, 2011Commentary

One of the many types of health information technology being avidly promoted, especially by vendors selling the capability, are personal health records, which are the patient-maintained equivalent of electronic medical records created by providers.  The software and storage for this capability are sold by IT vendors like Microsoft or Google, by large health plans and sometimes by providers.  The information in them is often generated by providers or payers, but collected by the patient into one place, and there may also be patient-generated data, such as on eating or exercise habits.  Health Affairs surveyed physicians to discover their attitudes toward personal health records.  (Health Affairs Article)

The survey covered 856 doctors in the time period 2008-2009.  While 14% of the doctors regularly used patients’ personal health records, 64% had never used one.  Overall, only 42% said they were interested or willing to use them, while 24% said they weren’t.  Those more likely to be willing to use PHRs included minority physicians, those in group practice and obstetricians, psychiatrists, and surgeons.  MDs highly likely to use the records were hospital employed and rural physicians.  Those least willing to accept PHRs were women, suburban doctors and those in higher-volume practices and those with a high number of minority patients.

Those who were willing to use PHRs believed the benefits could include improved patient relationships and improved quality of care, but less than half of even these physicians thought these benefits would actually occur.  All doctors, those willing to use and those not, had concerns about data accuracy, liability, privacy and being reimbursed for the time taken to review the records.  Interestingly, experienced users were less likely to think that PHRs actually empowered patients or helped data accuracy.  Since PHRs value ultimately is both to help patients manage their own health and health care and to provide useful data to physicians, it is apparent a lot of work needs to be done before doctors will really be comfortable with such records.

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