Interactive PHR drives patients to stay current with preventive services

Personal health records (PHRs) that provide patient-centered functionality could increase the delivery of preventive services, according to researchers at Virginia Commonwealth University. The interactive PHR, or IPHR, referenced in the study gave participating patients access to their medical records, explained information in lay language and offered individualized recommendations, resources and reminders.

The study report appears in the July/August issue of Annals of Family Medicine.

The trial involved 4,500 patients in eight primary care practices. The researchers randomly assigned patients to two groups: those who were invited to use a secure, web-based IPHR, and those who stayed with their usual care routine. Among patients invited to use the IPHR, 10 percent were doing so at a 4-month measurement point; usage increased to 17 percent at 16 months.

After four months, delivery of colorectal, breast and cervical cancer screening increased by 19 percent, 15 percent and 13 percent, respectively, among IPHR users. Twenty-five percent of IPHR patients were up to date on all preventive health services at the 16-month mark, double the rate among non-users. In contrast, less than 13 percent of standard-care patients were up to date on their preventive services at the end of the study.

Lead author Alex Krist, MD, told Reuters news service that the study tested "a higher level of functionality than exists in current practice."

Reuters reported that the non-commercial IPHR deployed in the study is in use at 14 U.S. primary care practices. The researchers hope to expand its use to 300 practices over the next several years.

The Department of Health & Human Services reported this week that more than 16 million people with Medicare coverage received at least one preventive service at no cost through Affordable Care Act provisions during the first six months of 2012. In 2011, 32.5 million people with Medicare coverage received one or more free preventive benefits.

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