ORLANDO, FLA. — This year we’ve heard a lot of conference speakers and seen many online and print experts pontificate about whose job it is to sell patients on the value of personal health records (PHRs). In theory, PHRs could be a boon to health care quality, as patients become empowered by having more information they can share when they go from practitioner to practitioner.
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Most discussions of PHRs end up concluding that they’re doomed because there’s no one alpha dog advocate or “public face” for their cause. Physicians are either too busy or too afraid to promote them to their patients, and no one else really has the patient’s ear.
We’ve found the actual location where the buck stops: here at the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) show. In back-to-back briefings — and unbeknownst to each another — U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Regina Benjamin and AHIMA board president Rita Bowen both took responsibility for showing patients the importance of maintaining a PHR.
“I’ve been trying,” Benjamin said in an interview with SearchHealthIT.com, outlining several efforts her office has undertaken, including a continuation of last summer’s advertising campaign with Microsoft HealthVault extolling the benefits of creating a family health record during the upcoming holiday season. “It’s my job.”
A few minutes later, in a Q&A session before several journalists, Bowen, too, claimed that promoting PHRs is one of AHIMA’s goals. To facilitate that, her association has passed resolutions to promote PHRs, has created outreach committees to do that, and has given awards to members who have taken on the task and accomplished the most.
“It is an ongoing effort,” Bowen said, adding that 60% of the patients at the facility where she works are seeing hospitalists, who don’t know the patients and don’t necessarily have access to incoming patients’ records. Their treatment decisions are only as informed as the information they can access — which is where PHRs can play a huge role in helping with care decisions. “Unfortunately, until you yourself need it, until you are in a situation when you are in a critical place where you need care . . . you don’t realize you need it,” she said.
Notice that no one’s kidding anybody and guaranteeing that PHRs will catch on. But here are two leaders using their resources and at least doing something to advance the cause. How refreshing.