Although several factors have hindered widespread adoption of personal health records, experts say PHR use could increase as more physicians transition from paper-based systems to electronic health records, Computerworld reports.
Slow Adoption of PHRs
Lygeia Ricciardi, HHS senior policy adviser for consumer e-health, said consumer use of PHRs "is not incredibly high, but it is growing." She cited a recent Deloitte survey that found PHR use increased from 3% in 2008 to 11% in 2011.
Liz Boehm, a principal analyst at Forrester Research, said PHR adoption has been slow partially because consumers face a fragmented market. For example, health insurers might offer PHR tools that contain claims information but lack clinical data, while physician offices might offer PHR tools that contain clinical data but cannot link to a patient's pharmacy or another health care provider's system.
In addition, some consumers might be reluctant to adopt PHRs because most tools require them to upload information manually.
Ricciardi said many consumers "can't easily get their information in an electronic form," adding, "If they're trying to use a stand-alone product and type it in all by hand, that's tough. When it becomes ... easy to download their information, I foresee interest in the area growing."
Ricciardi also noted that PHRs might not interest consumers because many of the tools function as an "electronic filing cabinet" for storing medical data. She said consumers "want interactive applications, games, things that engage them in their health," adding, "There [would be] more reasons to actually access and use your health information if more of these tools were out and about."
Anticipated Growth in PHR Adoption
As more physicians adopt EHR systems to comply with federal mandates, Ricciardi said she expects to see a "spillover effect" that will boost consumer access to electronic health data and thereby fuel PHR adoption.
Boehm noted that linking EHRs to PHRs "absolutely" will increase PHR use because a physician's involvement "fundamentally changes what the PHR is and what's being offered."
According to Ricciardi, an increase in the availability of electronic health data could spur technology vendors to create new PHR tools. She said, "Until you have all that data flowing, sometimes it's hard to encourage industry to go ahead and develop all these applications" (O'Connor, Computerworld, 8/24).