PHRs are coming: Is your practice ready?

September 5, 2008

How do PHRs benefit your practice? We spoke to PHR experts and doctors who are using the systems about the benefits and drawbacks of incorporating them into their practices.

Key Points

It doesn't take long for Dr. Charles Kilo to adopt new technology at his family practice in Portland, Oregon.

In 2002, he launched a web-based portal that allows patients to send online messages and make appointment and prescription-refill requests to Greenfield Health, his two-office, nine-physician group practice.

Although HealthVault is still in its testing phase, Kilo is impressed by what he sees after only a few weeks of availability to his patients.

"There is a huge amount of efficiencies," says Kilo, who emphasizes that he holds no Microsoft stock and is not being paid by the software giant to use or endorse its product. "If you have access to data and can communicate with the individual, you can manage a tremendous amount of [chronic conditions] without seeing the patient. Unfortunately for many physicians, that seems like sacrilege, because they're so ingrained in the visit-based method of care."

With the arrival of HealthVault and Google Health, PHRs may be on the verge of broader acceptance, according to a recent consumer survey of 1,580 adults by the Markle Foundation, an organization leading the charge for universal PHR privacy standards.

According to Markle, only about 6.1 million people-roughly 2.7 percent of all U.S. adults-have PHRs. Among survey respondents who said they would not be interested in starting a PHR, 57 percent cited concern over the protection of their medical information as the top reason.

With an established security framework in place, the major PHR management systems will begin to market PHR adoption to insurers, according to a study by the health-care analyst firm Chilmark Research. Health-plan members will most likely receive incentives to start a PHR, such as discounted counseling services for chronic conditions like weight management, diabetes, and hypertension.

But other than the benefit of more health-conscious patients, the question remains: How do PHRs benefit your practice? Isn't it just more time spent plowing through more information?

We spoke to PHR experts and doctors who are using the systems about the benefits and drawbacks of incorporating them into their practices.