Health plan pushing personal medical records

A Connecticut HMO believes that the way to get its members to create online personal records is with their physicians.

By Tyler Chin — Posted Feb. 27, 2006

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ConnectiCare, a Farmington, Conn.-based health plan, is launching an initiative to get its members to create online personal health records for themselves and their families.

Under the initiative, ConnectiCare plans to offer a discounted subscription fee to all in-network physicians to get them to sign up for the iHealthRecord service from Medem, a San Francisco-based company partly owned by the AMA.

Using the service, health plan members will be able to create a comprehensive, secure Web-based medical record, giving their regular doctor access to information about care they received from other physicians and hospitals that normally isn't readily accessible to them, said Stephen Jewett, a ConnectiCare spokesman.

ConnectiCare, which soon will promote the online service to the more than 10,000 physicians who treat its 240,000 members, hasn't determined yet how much doctors will pay for the iHealthRecord service. But the monthly fee will be "nominal," Jewett said. ConnectiCare is paying iHealthRecord $20 per physician for the subscriptions.

Since Medem launched iHealthRecord in May 2005, nearly 5,000 physicians have purchased iHealth services, which also include practice Web site and secure e-mail services, said Edward Fotsch, MD, Medem's CEO.

The ConnectiCare online personal health record initiative is part of a trend that is still in its infancy, industry observers said. They note that several insurers and hospitals across the country have rolled out programs to get consumers to create and maintain personal health records in an effort to reduce duplication of services and improve care and patient safety.

But the rate of adoption by consumers has been very low, partly because the trend is relatively new, and consumers are wary of creating a record containing confidential medical information online, observers said.

Another reason consumers have been slow to adopt online personal health records is that their physicians haven't participated in them.

But ConnectiCare is hoping that by getting doctors to sign up for Medem's service, members will adopt online personal health records because they will know that their doctor is receptive to the concept of communicating and sharing information electronically with them.

The plan also is hoping that iHealthRecord will help encourage doctors to adopt information technology because any physician who gets the service also will gain access to other online services offered by Medem. These include creating Web sites for their practices and a platform they can use to communicate securely with patients, Jewett said.

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