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Smartphones, other mobile devices may boost use of personal health records

A report looks at how technology would make it easier for patients to monitor themselves and share data on PHR systems.

By Pamela Lewis Dolan — Posted Sept. 21, 2010

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In concept, the public has been in favor of using personal health records for some time. But in practice, it hasn't found much to like.

A report by the Deloitte Center for Health Solutions looks at the use of mobile technology and personal health records. It finds that the two technologies combined could produce attractive features that could spur greater adoption of PHRs. The Deloitte report cites a survey showing that only 10% of the population uses a PHR.

Paul Keckley, PhD, executive director of the Deloitte Center for Health Solutions and co-author of the report, said mobile technology will deliver in two ways. First, it can provide actionable and personalized data. Second, it can deliver that information at the time it is needed in an easy-to-use format.

PHRs were created to act as a patient-maintained virtual filing cabinet for medical records, and to connect patients and physicians.

Keckley said the "PHR 2.0" changes that model to one that allows patients to connect with data sources that will help them make better decisions about their health care.

The report says 50% of consumers want a personal monitoring device to alert and guide them to make health-related decisions. About 57% want to use a PHR to connect to a doctor's office. The authors conclude that by using portable PHR devices, consumers can make informed health decisions using fewer health system resources that contribute to the high cost of health care delivery (link).

The study said mobile PHR projects are in the early stages of development, but that barriers to widespread adoption exist.

The study authors said privacy is a concern among potential users. But once consumers start using a PHR, the fears diminish.

Keckley said there are technical barriers. He said the industry is still about two years from a complete definition of patient privacy and what it means when patients give consent for their data to be viewed or used. He said technical standards are need to ensure that systems can talk to each other.

Also among the barriers is a concern among physicians about the integrity of the data. More physicians with electronic medical record systems are offering pre-populated PHRs, which patients can use to access their records, view test results, communicate with physicians and refill prescriptions. The remaining challenge is making patient-entered data distinct from physician-provided data.

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