PHR adoption hinges primarily on ease of use, value to consumers

Ease of use and the perceived advantage of logging on to personal health records were the leading factors to PHR adoption according to researchers from Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, who published their findings this week in the Journal of Medical Internet Research.

The study also looked at sociodemographic characteristics, access and use of technology, perceived innovativeness with technology, and perceptions of privacy and security.

In the study, 760 surveyed patients from the ambulatory care practices of Brigham and Women's Hospital and Massachusetts General Hospital were identified in three groups: PHR users; rejecters--those who never logged on; and non-adopters--those who initially logged on, but never used the PHR.

Non-adopters reported lower rates of computer use than PHR users and rejecters. Not too surprisingly, PHR users scored the ease of use and relative advantage of the PHR higher than rejecters and non-adopters.

The work contrasts to a recent study published by researchers from the University of Central Florida which found no link between age, income and education in willingness to adopt a PHR. That study focused only on intent to adopt a PHR, not whether patients actually adopted the technology.

This study found non-adopters were less educated, had lower incomes, reported lower use of technology in general (and computers, in particular) and rated themselves lower on personal innovativeness in information technology.

The study's authors worried that the results could affect patients' perceptions of the value of PHRs, and may require communication from multiple channels for them to learn about the technology. They advocated for allowing user trial periods on PHRs, as well as for opportunities to observe how PHRs can be used, such as in a doctor's office waiting room.

They also recommend focusing adoption strategies on the advantage of a PHR for communicating with the doctor's office, such as avoiding phone tag with a nurse for a prescription refill, or the ability to email questions to physicians as necessary.

Previous studies have reported that patients want to manage their own health records, but then grow complacent about actually doing so. A study published at the beginning of the year found most people don't take advantage of the opportunity when it's offered.

To learn more:|
- read the research