PHRs Are The Rule, But Has Anyone Told The Patients?

The CMS Notice for Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) for Meaningful Use Stage 2 elevates the personal health record (PHR) to an all-time high ranking in the world of healthcare IT.  We all agree that greater patient involvement and accountability is a very good thing, but there’s one small problem: CMS and the healthcare industry have not informed the public of their duty to make use of the large PHR investment which has been (or will soon be) made on their behalf.

Industry watchers have long known that the promise of PHRs is undeniable.  That is, give patients the right healthcare management tools and they will begin managing their own healthcare to the benefit of themselves and our over-burdened healthcare system.  While the promise of PHRs is not new, the realization of this promise would indeed be new.

Consider these points:

1.  Despite millions of PHRs made available to the public, meaningful use of PHRs can be measured in single percentage points
2.  The most popular exemption exercised in MU Stage 1 is the release of information provision, since so few patients ask for their electronic records, and
3.  The much deliberated ACO legislation – based on the notion that all healthcare delivery parties should be accountable – leaves one rather important party unaccountable:  the patients.

Much can be done to put PHRs on par with other Internet must-haves.   The low-hanging fruit to promote adoption is well understood, such as making PHRs more user-friendly and bundling PHRs with “sticky” functionality like self-scheduling.   Also, providers can give short PHR demonstrations to patients before the patients walk out the door.  But maybe the most potent weapon is advertising.  In fact, if HHS can mount a “ask your doctor if you have questions” campaign, surely a PHR promotional campaign would be equally worthwhile.

But, let’s see… who could be the spokesman?    Dr. Sanjay Gupta from CNN comes to mind… certainly one of the best known and most trusted Doctors in America.   And how is this for an enticement to HHS?  If they can sign Dr. Gupta for a TV spot, Divurgent will write the script at no charge.   Could be the beginning of a beautiful relationship.