Study: Most patients not using PHRs

Evidently that old adage about horses and water also applies to patients: You can give them free access to personal health records (PHRs) but that doesn't mean they'll take advantage of the opportunity.

That's the upshot of a recent study published January by the Journal of American Medical Informatics Association. Researchers studied patients being treated for hypertension by 24 different primary care physicians and who had been provided with PHRs connected to their EHRs. Few patients actually used the PHRs, and the existence of the PHRs had no impact on the patients' blood pressure, medical utilization or perceived quality of care. Only 26% of the patients used the PHRs "frequently." And it was only the most frequent users of the PHRs that saw reductions in their blood pressure.

"PHR access alone failed to activate patients, improve outcomes, increase satisfaction with care or change the frequency within which patients use medical services," the researchers noted.

Perhaps not surprisingly, the rate of PHR use decreased with older patients who may not be as tech-savvy as their younger counterparts--and increased for those patients who self-identified as having higher computer skills and more internet-connected devices.

The researchers expressed concern, since hypertension contributes to one out of seven deaths in the United States, so even "marginally activating patients may yield significant outcome improvements," they noted in the study.

The study also noted that the results could impact the success of stages 2 and 3 of Meaningful Use, since the proposed Meaningful Use criteria for both stages include the use of patient-facing electronic health management tools. The research suggests that stage 2 of Meaningful Use may not produce changes in patient health outcomes.

The researchers were hopeful that the increase in the use of mobile technology may reduce technical disparities among patients and expand potential PHR access.

To learn more:
- read the study's abstract