Lack of EMR data means continued consumer PHR apathy

We've been more critical than most when it comes to breathless hype surrounding personal health records, particularly the types of PHR that don't come directly from a provider organization. But the evidence that consumers aren't accepting certain kinds of PHRs just continues to pile up.

The latest comes from the federal government. The Office of Personnel Management reports that 86 percent of health plans serving federal employees offered some form of PHR to their enrollee in 2009, up from 51 percent two years earlier. But only 19 percent of participating insurance companies had even 5 percent of members use their PHRs. Blame the fact that so few physicians and hospitals have EMRs from which to draw electronic clinical data, according to OPM, as well as "a lack of market acceptance of a common PHR definition, data content and portability standards."

This news comes about a week after Revolution Health told its customers that it would discontinue its PHR by the end of February. The demise of the Revolution revolution prompted iHealthBeat editor George Lauer to question a whole segment of the market by calling on some industry watchers. "I think this shows the direct-to-consumer market for PHRs just doesn't work," John Moore, founder of health IT analysis firm Chilmark Research, told Lauer. "It's too much work for consumers--you can't expect them to collect, input and keep track of all that data," Moore said.

Health 2.0 advocate--and one-time FierceHealthIT editor--Matthew Holt, said simply, "PHRs don't exist...especially stand-alone data stores, which you enter your own data into and get nothing out of."

Holt and Moore do see a future for PHRs, but only the types that automatically collect data from EMRs and other electronic sources, and then give patients something to act on in the interest of prevention or health maintenaince. They do mention Google Health and Microsoft's HealthVault as potential successes--but fortunately don't fall into the trap of thinking that those two products are somehow market leaders.

To learn more:
- read this Government Health IT story about the OPM report
- take a look at Lauer's iHealthBeat piece