One of the fundamental pillars of the new Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) — the health reform act — is the expansion of electronic health records (EHR).
The act went so far as to partially subsidize the cost of conversion of paper records into electronic form. This has fueled something of an explosion in companies developing and providing online personal health records (PHR) services and systems to patients and doctors alike.
The advantages of PHRs, as a general concept, are clear.
First, the technology encourages patients to become actively involved in their own health care and to also become more aware of their medical conditions, medications, allergies, recent testing and overall health history. There’s also the potential for a significant increase in patient safety, especially in emergency cases when critical information is needed immediately in an accurate, complete and easily accessible format.
Health care cost reduction is another potential benefit from PHRs and in an era of finite health care resources, aging population and increasing health care costs, this issue takes center stage. Savings can come from the decrease in testing and procedure redundancy, which carries a significant risk to patient’s safety as well. PHRs can make the sharing of medical information among providers seamless, helping further reduce errors. The fact many PHR providers give patients access to their data via Internet-connected electronic devices make PHRs a powerful concept whose true full benefit to patients and impact on health care costs can only be realized with time.
PHRs and EMRs are also likely to serve the insurance industry by making it easier to detect redundancy in testing and procedures. This will advance health care cost containment, increase safety to patients and create a trickledown effect that can decrease insurance premiums. This result will no doubt benefit insurers in terms of lives covered, appeal and market share.
All these potential benefits highlight the critical importance of choosing the right PHR for the job, one that will provide easy access for patients and providers alike, is intuitive, user friendly, comprehensive and would provide the entire spectrum of services needed.