Selling Patients on the Benefits of PHRs Is Essential to Provider Success

February 22, 2011

Getting patients on board with keeping their own patient health records is an easy way for physicians to improve care. Here's how to do it.

Personal health records such as Google Health, which allow patients to input heath data such as blood-sugar levels and weight, are immensely helpful to physicians when it comes to planning care and keeping patients healthy.

But how do doctors get more patients to keep PHRs?

That’s the subject of a report released today by PwC Health Research Institute, a research and consulting organization.

“Many physicians wish they had more information for follow-up,” said Mark Sugrue, a former registered nurse who is now a consultant with PwC and who attended the HIMSS 2011 show in Orlando this week. Today, Sugrue works with numerous providers in physician practices and other healthcare settings.

According to the 19-page report “Putting the Patients into Meaningful Use,” only 14 percent of U.S. patients actually have PHRs, though fewer keep them up to date.

So how does a physician encourage PHR use?

One successful strategy, according to PwC researchers, is getting family members on board. For example, physicians can ask spouses and parents to use an electronic PHR to keep track of health data such as immunizations andblood-sugar levels.

Another strategy is to encourage patients to input personal health data into your practice’s web portal, if you have one.

A third, and perhaps most important, strategy is to explain the importance of PHRs to patients and consumers during routine visits. PwC recommends making the physician or advanced practice nurse “the face of the PHR.”

Andrea Routh, executive director of the Missouri Health Advocacy Alliance, an organization that represents more than 40 consumer groups involved in the development of the state’s health information exchange, told PwC researchers there is a “marketing gap,” when it comes to promoting the use of PHRs. “We haven’t seen the benefits of PHRs marketed to patients yet, but I think the state health information exchanges themselves will raise awareness,” Routh said. “People are going to say ‘Wait, I’m a piece of that picture. I want to make sure my physicians also know about the things I know about my own health.’”

Watch a video interview with Mark Sugrue on the PwC report  here.

Marisa Torrieri is associate editor for Physicians Practice. She can be reached at marisa.torrieri@ubm.com.

Check out our complete coverage of the HIMSS 2011 conference here.