Montana pilots personal health records program

A pilot program in Montana will set up electronic personal health records for employees of the City of Billings and employees of Billings-based healthcare company, combining records of all providers into a single online repository.

The project, an outgrowth of the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT's Consumer Innovation Challenge, involves Employee Benefit Management Service (EBMS), health management system provider Dossia, the state's health information exchange HealthShare Montana, Billings physician hospital organization Rocky Mountain Health Network and HeW, a company connecting services among the other partners, according to Big Sky Business Journal

The ONC's challenge was to use grants of $200,000 to $300,000 to quickly--within six months--improve patients' access to their health records. Montana was among six states awarded the grants, highlighted in a Government Health IT post from March.

Patients in the pilot may choose to share all or only some of their data. Their employers will not be able to access it. The program plans to add insurance and pharmacy data later, according to a second Government Health IT article.

Brad Putnam, HealthShare Montana executive director, said in that post that the online platform "was built with social networking in mind, bi-directional communications capability, available proxy access and access to a tremendous amount of knowledge around helping patients understand their health records."

The city will be able to create social challenges to promote healthy behavior and EBMS will be able to reach out to patients who may need help managing a chronic condition. The articles don't say how long the pilot will last or how or when it might be expanded.

Patients say they want tools to manage their own health records, according to an Accenture poll, but they tend to be apathetic when it comes to actually doing so. But Stage 2 Meaningful Use requirements will call on providers to boost patient engagement in their own healthcare and healthcare data, which may mean providing more technical training on their use, reassuring patients of the records' privacy and security and providing more incentives to use them – especially financial ones.

To that end, the American Health Information Management Association recently released an online consumer guide to PHRs.

And the ONC recently revised its suggested boilerplate privacy notice for PHRs to make it less confusing to consumers.

To learn more:
- read the Journal article
- learn about the grants
- see this Government Health IT story