IT Leaders Set Sights on Personal Health Record


Over the next year, leaders in the health information technology community will be working toward creating a basic, consumer-controlled personal health record.

At a Webcast meeting of the American Health Information Community, experts agreed that a personal health record containing an individual's medication history and general demographic information 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.

Today, most patients feel they own their medical records but when they go to get lab results from their physician, it can often take days or weeks, said Nancy Davenport-Ennis, CEO of the National Patient Advocate Foundation and a member of the American Health Information Community. “The timeliness of access to medical information is critical to patients.”

One of the major hurdles in creating secure and portable patient health records is authentication, said Dr. Reed Tuckson of UnitedHealth Group, who presented information to the group.

Other obstacles 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.

In the federal sector, some successful steps have been taken toward creating personal health records, 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 [on this project] with a blank slate,” Dr. Lansky said. Providing patients with electronic medication histories is something that could be done quickly.

The Markle Foundation was one of the groups that helped spearhead efforts to do just that with

It's helpful that the public already recognizes the value of using this type of information in an emergency situation, 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.