Your article, PHR data overload, legal liability concern docs, points out that there are more problems and potential problems with personal health records than there are apparent benefits. Information technology is not good at capturing free text formats so the PHRs would have to be standardized and in a formalized language. It's doubtful that most patients would be motivated to rigorously participate in maintaining their PHRs unless they believed that doing so resulted in a serious and fairly immediate benefit.
Amid all the promotion of PHRs (and electronic health records), there has been no clear, settled concept of "PHR" and how it would work, so there cannot be a cost-benefit analysis of themjust a collection of anecdotal results from those who have implemented various forms of what they consider a "PHR." What's puzzling then is the reason for all the enthusiasm for PHRs and EHRs. The healthcare industry is frequently told it needs to practice evidence-based medicine. But in view of the billions of dollars that Kaiser Permanente has spent on EHR projects and the billions more dollars that Britain's National Health Service has spent on its EHR project, perhaps it's time for evidence-based IT. After all, the healthcare policy objectives should be to reduce the cost of healthcare, reduce errors and improve quality, not support the IT industry. I suspect that a good part of the unbridled enthusiasm for IT in healthcare is based on a desire to avoid more fundamental conundrums in healthcare that we don't know how to solve coupled with a desire to do something, anything that seems "positive."
Tom ShillockPresidentM2 ConsultingPortland, Ore.
To submit a letter to YOUR VIEWS, click here. Please include your name, title and hometown.