Americans with access to their health information through Personal Health Records (PHR) report that they know more about their health, ask more questions, and take better care of themselves than when their health information was less accessible to them in paper records, according to a just released study by the California HealthCare Foundation (CHCF).
The survey conducted with 1,849 people was done between December 18, 2009 and January 15, 2010 by Lake Research Partners. In general this new national survey finds PHRs motivate consumers to improve their health, but the tools that help people to manage their health are still not widely used.
The survey indicates that one in 14 Americans have used a PHR which is double the number of users from a year earlier. Users say that secure, password-protected PHRs give them the confidence they need to access their personal information online, and when they do, they pay more attention to their health.
One in three PHR users say they took a specific action to improve their health—sparking hope that these technologies could be the long awaited tools that help engage patients in taking better care of themselves. Surprisingly, the benefits of PHR use is most valued among populations that have been difficult for healthcare providers to engage—those with multiple chronic conditions, less education, and lower incomes.
“We know that most healthcare is self-care, since most people only see their physicians periodically,” said CHCF President and CEO Mark D. Smith, M.D. “The survey shows that when individuals have easy access to their health information, they pay greater attention to their health. For the first time, the survey documents that PHRs empower some people—including some of the heaviest users of the health system to take better care of themselves.”
Despite the growing availability of PHRs through health plans and online services, the survey found most Americans have yet to take advantage or PHRs or related applications. While usage of these tools is relatively low, it has increased considerably from earlier surveys. In fact 7 percent of Americans now say they have used a PHR—more than double the rate since 2008, when the Markle Foundation released a survey finding only 2.7 percent of people had used a PHR.
About half of all survey respondents say they want to use PHRs provided by their physicians (58%) or from insurers (50%). Just one in four (25%) reports wanting to use PHRs developed and marketed by private technology companies.
Healthcare privacy still remains a concern. In 2010, 68% expressed the same levels of concern on the issue. However, two thirds of those surveyed said privacy concerns should not stand in the way of learning how technology can help improve healthcare.
Other findings indicate that PHR users are predominantly young, highly educated, higher income, white men but traditionally vulnerable populations have the most to gain from PHR use. Also, if the users have doctors who use EMRs then they are more likely to want to use a PHR.
To view the full survey findings, go to www.chcf.org.