Interactive record systems boost preventive screening rates

Patients who used an interactive personal health record (IPHR) were twice as likely to be up to date on preventive screenings such as mammograms and colonoscopy as those who did not, according to research from Virginia Commonwealth University.

The study, published in the Annals of Family Medicine, involved eight primary care practices and 4,500 patients. The research came out of the university's Cancer Prevention and Control program at Massey Cancer Center.

Patients were divided into a control group and an intervention group invited to use an IPHR. Surveys at four months and 16 months were used to patients who used the IPHR and those who did not.)

The study was based on 18 services recommended by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, such as weight and blood pressure checks, cancer screenings and immunizations. After setting up an account linked to their electronic health record, the IPHR issued personal recommendations for patients based on 167 points in their EHRs and an initial health risk assessment, according to a university article.  It sent messages explaining the recommended screening, pulling in relevant details from the patient's medical history. After patients used the IPHR, a summary was sent to their doctors.

At 16 months, the proportion of patients up to date on all recommended services grew by 3.8 percent among intervention patients, compared with growth of 1.5 percent among the control group. Among those who used the IPHR, 25.1 percent were up to date, double the rate of nonusers. At 4 months, screening for colorectal cancer had grown by 19 percent, breast cancer by 15 percent and cervical cancer screening by 13 percent among IPRH users.

The researchers have also developed a handbook for providers on adopting interactive personal health records.

Clearly, with only 20 percent adoption, it remains a challenge to get patients engaged in using technology to improve their health. Bryce Williams, director of health and wellness at Blue Shield of California, recently said that the key is to connect people at different levels of health and give them social platforms where they can interact in a non-judgmental way.

His company has come up with 10 ways to to get people to use wellness applications--and keep using them, including finding the right motivations, creating healthy competitions and keeping it fun.

To learn more:
- here's the abstract
- read the VCU  article
- download the handbook