Over the next year or so, leaders in the health information technology community will work on ways to make medication history and some general demographic information available to consumers in a portable health record.
Experts at a Webcast meeting of the American Health Information Community agreed that this is the “low-hanging fruit” that could eventually pave the way for widespread access to portable, consumer-controlled personal health records. The American Health Information Community is an advisory committee to the Department of Health and Human Services.
The development of portable electronic demographic information, or registration information, would be a way to do away with the medical clipboard, HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt said.
“The timeliness of access to medical information is critical to patients,” said Nancy Davenport-Ennis, CEO of the National Patient Advocate Foundation and a member of the American Health Information Community. Today, most patients feel they own their medical record but when they go to get lab results from their physician, it can often take days or weeks, she said.
One of the major hurdles in creating secure and portable patient health records is authentications, said Dr. Reed Tuckson of UnitedHealth Group, who presented information to the group. Others include the inability to locate patient information across multiple settings, segmentation of the consumer market, privacy concerns, low levels of consumer trust, few electronic health records to connect to, and the lack of an established business model.
But there have been some successes, said David Lansky, Ph.D., of the Markle Foundation, who presented information to the group. For example, the Department of Veterans Affairs set up a patient portal, and the Department of Defense has a similar program. And some health plans offer pre-populated personal health records. “We're not starting with a blank slate.”
Providing medication history electronically to patients is something that could be done quickly, he said. The Markle Foundation helped spearhead efforts to do just that with www.katrinahealth.org
It's helpful that the public already recognizes the value of using this type of information in emergencies, Dr. Lansky said.
Providing electronic access to general demographic data or registration information holds the potential for increasing convenience for patients and improving accuracy when sharing information. But privacy issues would need to be addressed and there is the potential for replicating errors, he said.