PHRs are much like the tides, news about them ebbs and flows. Right now, with the relatively recent demise of Google Health, Dossia’s attempts at rebirth, and the significant inquiries we are receiving regarding meaningful use requirements to host a PHR (patient portal). But in and amongst all this Chilmark has heard on more than one occasion the following statement: “The problem with PHRs is that they are a technology in search of a market.”
This statement is simply wrong for the following reasons:
1) As we have said countless times before in previous posts, very few people are interested in a digital filing cabinet for their health records. Unfortunately, many PHRs in the market today are just that, digital filing cabinets. In this case it is not an issue of a technology in search of a market, it is just a bad product that really has no market.
2) Technology adoption does not occur for its own sake, it occurs when there is perceived value by the user that leads to adoption. PHRs, PHPs (personal health platforms), patient portals, etc., is certainly a technology, that when well-designed, and implemented can deliver significant value and subsequently see high adoption rates. Just look to Kaiser-Permanente’s instance of MyChart, where patient adoption is well over 40%. Up in the Pacific Northwest, the Group Health Collaborative (GHC) is seeing PHR adoption that is well over 50%. That’s a market!
While there is indeed a PHR market, the market is immature and likely to remain so for the foreseeable future. The market is unlikely to be found in stand-alone PHRs or PHPs where it is incumbent upon the end user to populate the system and establish the critical links with the broader healthcare system (borg) to drive those high-value transactions. Rather. the near-term market for PHRs will be with those systems that are tethered to a healthcare provider, be it an individual practice, a hospital or large IDN such as Kaiser or GHC that have the critical linkages for transactional processes such as appointment scheduling, Rx refill requests, email consults. etc.
Unfortunately, for those with complex conditions, who have a multitude of doctors and/or specialists, these patients will be burdened with having a multitude of PHRs (patient portals) to visit to view their records and when desired, invoke a transactional process. The dream of one complete longitudinal patient record will remain such, just a dream especially for those who are in greatest need of one such record, our sickest, most needy patients.
And one last point…
Why are organizations such as KP and GHC seeing such high rates of adoption while many other organizations do not? Quite simple really, these organizations have built these patient portals (PHR) and the tools they provide into the clinician workflow and actually have clinicians encourage patients to use the PHR. Most organizations we have spoken to have failed to grasp this critical point, and maybe they really do not care, they’re just checking off the meaningful use box of requirements that must be met.
John Moore is an IT Analyst at Chilmark Research, where this post was first published.