Will new PHR give doctors better information?

November 24, 2006

ActiveHealth Management, which alerts physicians about their patients' unmet medical needs, using claims, pharmacy and lab data, is now combining its decision support tools with a new personal health record (PHR). ActiveHealth, which was acquired by Aetna last year, will offer this product to other client plans and self-insured employers, as well. As previously noted, Aetna will pilot the Active Health PHR, starting in February, and will begin selling it to employers next summer (Infotech Bulletin, Oct. 13).

ActiveHealth Management, which alerts physicians about their patients' unmet medical needs, using claims, pharmacy and lab data, is now combining its decision support tools with a new personal health record (PHR). ActiveHealth, which was acquired by Aetna last year, will offer this product to other client plans and self-insured employers, as well. As previously noted, Aetna will pilot the Active Health PHR, starting in February, and will begin selling it to employers next summer (Infotech Bulletin, Oct. 27).

Other PHRs feature patient-entered data, and some health plans have begun populating PHRs with claims data. But the ActiveHealth PHR is different because it also includes advice (which is sent to physicians) on how patients can improve their health, notes Lonnie Reisman, MD, the company's CEO. Health plan members and employees can opt out of the PHR, says Reisman; but if they choose to use it, he says, they have to allow ActiveHealth to notify their physicians about things like potential drug interactions, missing diagnostic tests, and overdue chronic-disease services. Physicians can also provide patients with clinical data that they're allowed to enter into their PHR, even if it contradicts the claims-based information in it.

Reisman doesn't deny that claims data contains errors, but says that ActiveHealth has developed a rigorous process to screen out those mistakes. While filled prescriptions and lab results become part of the database within a week, he acknowledges that the lag time for claims data can be long-one reason he looks forward to the day when EHRs are universal.

One advantage of this PHR, says Reisman, is that it will contain far more information than the individual physician usually has about a patient. Aside from the self-reported information on health habits and alternative therapies, it will include diagnoses, lab data and filled prescriptions from other clinicians. This can help physicians avoid errors, he notes, by filling them in on what other providers are doing for their patients. ActiveHealth's PHR can also help patients prepare for office visits, and it could be vital in the ER, he adds.