The CMS announced that it will launch an 18-month pilot project to offer Medicare beneficiaries an Internet-based personal health record.
The goal of the project is to determine what PHR tools and features beneficiaries find the most attractive and functional, and assessing the best methods for outreach and education to encourage PHR adoption and use.
The PHRs will allow beneficiaries to look up information about their medications and medical conditions to help them manage their healthcare, according to an HHS news release. And, The beneficiary is in charge of his or her own PHR and will control who is able to see the information it contains. Sharing this information with healthcare providers from the PHR will be entirely up to the beneficiary.
Four organizations will be participating in the pilot: Health Insurance Plan of Greater New York, Humana, Kaiser Permanente and the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. Each will be offering a unique PHR.
For Kaiser Permanente, the differentiator will be the PHRs link to its KP HealthConnect electronic health record system. Kaiser officials say that while most health plan-supplied PHRs may offer only claims data, Kaiser can offer clinical data. Thats an advantage of being an integrated system, said Jan Oldenburg, a practice leader for the Kaiser Permanente Internet services group.
Oldenburg said the difference between a PHR with just claims data and one with clinical data is like the difference between being told when a test was taken and receiving the results. Going further, Oldenburg said a claims-data populated PHR will remind a patient that he or she visited the doctor on a certain day, while clinical-data populated PHR can show a patient his or her vital signs that were recorded during the visit and any prescriptions that the visit generated.
Oldenburg said Kaiser Permanente will be offering the PHR to some 880,000 of its members and is exploring the best ways to reach this population and learning what features work best for them. For example, many older Kaiser Permanente members dont have their own computers, so they need to be able to access their PHR on computers with public access, such as those at their local library.
She said Kaiser Permanente is working on creating three tiers of access that patients can build into PHRs. If they were to go outside of the Kaiser Permanente system they can provide different levels of medical information which can be supplied in different formats, such as: paper printouts, PDF files which can be downloaded onto a thumb drive, or information downloaded onto a wallet card.
Oldenburg said that the two biggest features driving PHR use have been secured e-mail messaging with physicians and the ability to view lab results. She added that there were parallel surges in PHR use after those two applications were rolled out, and that more than 2.4 million patient e-mails have been sent to physicians since Kaiser Permanente began offering secure messaging almost two years ago.