Consumers’ online access to electronic health records is growing in and outside of the U.S. — particularly evident in the U.K., where the National Health Service (NHS) patients are being given online access to their health records held by primary care providers (GPs). This program is termed “Record Access” and could morph into the larger concept of personal health records which, today, aren’t prevalent in the U.K.

A new report analyzes U.K. consumers’ perceptions about online health record access called, Personal Health Records: Putting Patients in Control? The report was published in the UK by 2020health.org with support from Microsoft.

The report is written in a specific context and time in the U.K., as the NHS us expanding Britons’ access to digitized personal health information.

British health citizens have generally liked Record Access where they have been provided, the report found. The most valued benefit named by consumers who have accessed records is their increased level of patient self-management, knowledge, communication, satisfaction and trust gained through Record Access. People also liked the convenience aspects of online appointment scheduling and ordering prescriptions (ePrescriptions, or eRx). That’s the demand side of the equation.

On the supply side of physicians extending Record Access, however, there have been barriers to uptake — which Health2020 says is “more to do with culture and change than technology.” It’s not about security, the researchers found: it’s about behavioral change, and patients becoming more involved and involved in care, resulting in becoming equal partners in their care.

The report explored international markets where PHRs are currently being used: namely, the U.S. (calling out Kaiser and the Veterans Administration) and Denmark in some detail.

In terms of recommendations, Health2020 notes that it’s early days for PHR uptake. To get adopted, PHRs must be “demonstrably useful, fitting well into people’s daily lives, particularly if they are remote to health services.” The report notes, too, that apps could be important in driving PHR uptake if they integrate well into the NHS’s EHR system. 

Consumers said the most useful features of the Record Access program were:
  • Ordering repeat prescriptions, 79%
  • Secure messaging to your GP, 77%
  • Appointment scheduling, 76%
  • Tailored health information, 60%
  • Monitoring health trends, 40%
  • Access to support groups, 37%.
2020health.org is a not-for-profit think tank with a mission, in its own words, of “creating a healthy society.”

Health Populi’s Hot Points:  Far and away, the #1 perceived benefit for consumers in online health record access is impact on “my” self-management, cited by 67% of people (2 in 3 UK health citizens) — although, strikingly, only 1 in 4 doctors (27%) said that Record Access changed how patients managed their health. The two-thirds of UK health citizens also said that they’d be “reassured” by using an electronic health record.

While there appears to be a gap between how patients “feel” about being empowered by online health records access, and how physicians “see” patient empowerment through their clinical eyes, most patients perceive a sense of self-efficacy when being able to access “their” personal health information — or in the parlance of the Society for Participatory Medicine’s latest video, “my DaM data (that is, “data about me”).

Health2020 points out that cultural trends and behavioral change are required for both patients and clinicians in online health records access. But ultimately, they point to a driving factor being the presence of a comprehensive and integrated EHR.

This factor translates across national boundaries, whether Danish, British or American. The presence of the EHR will bring much greater value to a tethered PHR than a one-way access of “my DaM data.”

 

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