How to Get Patients to Use Personal Health Records (PHRs)
Patients are interested in having their personal medical information and relevant resources at their fingertips—that is, in electronic form. And they also want to communicate with their healthcare providers electronically.
While it seems obvious that personal health records (PHRs) are the perfect tool to meet both of these needs, actual adoption of the technology is quite low. In fact, according to a national consumer survey conducted by the Markle Foundation in 2010, only 10 percent of American adults are currently using a PHR. And now that doctors need at least 5 percent of their patients to access, download, or transmit their electronic health records in order to meet Stage 2 Meaningful Use requirements of the EHR Incentive Program, the pressure is on to get patients using PHRs.
So what can you do to increase patient adoption and usage?
Focus on Those Patients Who Are Most Likely to Use PHRs
Age, income, and education level don’t impact a patient’s willingness to use a PHR. Rather, a recent study found that of those who are willing to use them, 65 percent self-reported a high health literacy rate. These patients want to be actively involved in their own healthcare. Therefore, they may be more likely to use a PHR as a tool to do so.
The bottom line? Patients who perceive value in using a PHR will be more likely to log in. For example, those with chronic conditions may find they can easily manage their health by tracking information and medications through a PHR. And patients who are looking for post-op or post-acute care will be interested in accessing a PHR for test results, post-surgical care information, and answers to any questions that crop up after they’re discharged from the hospital.
Get Familiar with the System and Personally Endorse Usage
A number of research studies have found that a main factor for increased adoption and usage of a PHR among patients is physician endorsement. When a doctor sanctions the use of a PHR, his or her patients are more likely to believe that the content of their medical records is accurate and secure.
To get started, learn about your office’s PHR and its features so you can share its benefits with your patients and exhibit a positive attitude regarding their use of the technology. Rather than viewing the PHR as a self-service tool that exists outside of the clinical experience, consider how you can integrate patient-provided information during in-person visits and use it as a jumping-off point for face-to-face conversations. Connecting the PHR with your patients’ care will make the technology even more relevant to them.
Highlight the Most Valuable Benefits
One study found that physicians and patients tapped into the PHR for its secure messaging capabilities because that feature had a high perceived value and was easily integrated with the existing technology and workflow. Messaging also allowed for direct communication and greater access to their healthcare provider—a major benefit in patients’ eyes.
When speaking about your own EHR system, go beyond simply listing the features and be sure to highlight the benefits that patients will experience when using it to access their PHRs. Let them know about the relevant information they can find and include in their PHR. Real-time access to test results, easy-to-understand educational resources, and medication lists are often of interest. In this way a PHR will allow patients to become more educated and take a more active role in their own health.
Getting patients to use a PHR can be challenging. But by focusing on those people who are most likely to find the value in it and then offering your own endorsement of the technology, you’ll be on your way to reaching your PHR usage goals in no time.