Report: Broadband could spur PHR adoption by those who most need health info

While we've often talked about how personal health records aren't resonating with the public and mocked some of the unwarranted attention given to early-stage data-aggregation platforms from the likes of Microsoft and Google, we've never doubted the potential of PHRs. A new report from the California HealthCare Foundation, conducted by Lake Research Partners, highlights the relatively the low adoption of PHRs but also spells out ways in which patients could benefit from PHRs and offers suggestions to encourage greater usage.

According to the survey, about 7 percent of U.S. adults say they have used a PHR, up from the 2.3 percent who reported PHR usage in a 2008 survey by the Markle Foundation. "It's heavily weighted to the West Coast, mostly due to Kaiser," report author Jane Sarasohn-Kahn tells FierceEMR. Kaiser Permanente, which operates the two largest group practices in the country, both of which are in California, provides PHRs to nearly all its patients through its KP HealthConnect portal.

The study says current PHR users tend to be younger, well-educated and have higher-than-average incomes, though less-educated, lower-income people with multiple chronic diseases derive the greatest benefits from having PHRs. Among survey respondents making less than $50,000 a year, 58 percent of PHR users believe the records help them feel more connected to their doctors. The number is just 31 percent for those with higher incomes.

Four in 10 people with at least two chronic conditions say their PHRs helped them take actions to improve their health, compared to 24 percent of other PHR users. "PHRs level the playing field," Sarasohn-Kahn says.

Lower-income Americans would be more likely to adopt PHRs--and make better choices about their health and healthcare--if they had better access to the Internet, according to the report. "To help bend the cost curve, we need to get broadband to those who don't have it," Sarasohn-Kahn tells FierceEMR.

For more information:
- read this iHealthBeat piece
- download the report and supporting material from the California HealthCare Foundation