Patients' desire to use PHRs higher than MU goals would indicate, researchers say

Consumers are willing to use personal health records (PHRs) but barriers imposed by others and the low bar set by the Meaningful Use program are impeding such adoption, according to a study in the Journal of Medical Internet Research.

The researchers, from Johns Hopkins University and elsewhere, noted that PHRs are a "tremendous opportunity" to increase patient engagement, which is a core element of the "Triple Aim," as well as of the Meaningful Use program. They studied the current level of PHR activity, and the factors affecting PHR adoption rates.

They found that consumers were increasingly using PHRs, especially as the use of mobile devices have proliferated, which makes such access even easier. While 8 million Americans were using two basic PHR functionalities in 2008 (storing data on the Internet and communicating electronically with their clinical provider), this number soared to more than 31 million by 2013.

However, the targets for Meaningful Use Stages 2 and 3 were way below such results and future trajectories. For instance, Stage 2 requires only 5 percent of patients communicating with providers. 

The researchers suggested that Meaningful Use may actually be slowing innovation in PHRs because vendors may be striving to provide only minimum PHR functionalities. In addition, providers may be creating administrative burdens on patients' online access to their records, they said.   

"Understanding the trajectory of PHR uptake by consumers is important for policy makers, providers and technology vendors" the researchers stated. "For policy makers, setting PHR usage targets based on quantified estimates rather than normative goals will ensure that targets are set at optimal levels to accelerate uptake, but not be unachievable. The provider community has been resistant to health information sharing. Having evidence that consumers are not only willing, but also able, to effectively use such tools may lower this resistance."

Other studies have shown that patients are increasingly willing to access their electronic records. However, many patient-centric products could be designed to be more useful. Additionally, some believe that government efforts to increase patient engagement may need reevaluating.

To learn more:
- read the study