Indian Health Service to offer personal health records

The Indian Health Service is creating personal health records for its more than 2 million patients based on the information it holds in its IHIS Medical, Health and Billing Records system, reports GovernmentHealthIT.

Initially the new system will only allow patients to view and print out a portion of their records, according to a notice published Monday in the Federal Register. It will not be the full record available to IHS healthcare providers, however. The agency will take comments on the proposal through Dec. 13.

In later enhancements, it will provide users with information about their health conditions, secure electronic messaging with IHS healthcare providers and let them order prescription refills and upcoming appointments online.

Plans call for a secure and private section where they can enter health information themselves. That information is to be stored in a separate database that can be linked to the patient's official IHS health record if they so choose.

Starting out, only the patient will be allowed to access the files, though they may print it out and share it with others, including family members and healthcare providers. Later they will be allowed to designate others to be given access to their records.

The IHS operates a Health Information Exchange among its healthcare facilities. Non-IHS healthcare providers are urged to request the patient records from the IHS provider where the patient was last seen.

The requirements for patient engagement in Meaningful Use Stage 2 have led to a flurry of activity toward creating personal health records for patients, though they tend not to use them. An officials with the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services said last week, that the agency might revisit those rules if complying proves too onerous for care providers.

The online records, however, have been linked to improved rates on preventive screenings such as mammography and colonoscopy. And a recent study from the University of Central Florida found age, education and income not factors to willingness to adopt PHRs, though it didn't follow up on whether the patients actually did so.

To learn more:
- here's the GovernmentHealthIT article
- read the notice