HEALTH PLANS/TECH: PHRs–Can this woman ever tell the truth?

Time for the Karen Ignagni lie of the day.

It comes in a session during which AHIP and the Blues talk about their sponsorship of a common model for PHRs (or at least for payer-based PHRs). It’s hard to know how she manages to slip in a whopper during a session that’s relatively non-controversial—or at least one supporting an initiative that most of us think is a good idea. (Even if there are grave doubts as to whether health plans really believe in portable health data or records that can be moved from plan to plan, or even could put it together if they did believe it—it’s clear that Kaiser, which is way, way ahead of these guys, has no idea about portability).

Here’s the lie. She says that there are 70m people using online PHRs now. When called on it, she doesn’t bother to justify her numbers. She then says that soon 100m will have access to these from health plans. That number is so wrong, it’s just amazing. Harris and Forrester both think that much fewer than 5% of the population (e.g. less than 15 million) have got PHRs, and Markle and Manhattan disagree but both say that the potential market is between 20m and 60m. So how does she come up with 70m people having one already? Who the hell knows? It must be a derivative of the number of members for whom their plan has a web site they can create an account on (most of those Wellpoint members with WebMD, by the way). I’m prepared to bet her annual salary that the total number of people who have ever actually visited a health plan web site is less than 70 million. After all that would constitute more than 50% of all Internet users.

And would it really hurt her to tell the truth? Which is that health plans have been really weak about creating PHRs and could have done it 5 years ago and chose not to! (Yes, I know I’m bitter). Is their record thus far really that embarrassing? (It is, actually, but no where near as embarrassing as the rest of the industry’s performance in the last 5 years!) What’s changed is that now they realize the time has come to do something before it gets done too them, and now they say they will get us to the PHR land there very quickly. I happen to think that they have a good shot, but can’t for once Ignagni just tell the truth about the progress so far? I guess we know the answer.

(Note: slight edits to end para made 12/15 when I noticed it didnt make sense!)

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