A new study, conducted by the California HealthCare Foundation (CHCF) and released today, finds that patients and consumers who have access to their health information through personal health records (PHRs) know more about their health, ask more questions, and take better care of themselves than when their health information is less accessible to them in paper form.
For the last several years, the National Partnership for Women & Families has led a diverse coalition of state and national consumer, patient and labor organizations in the health information technology (HIT) policy debate. This group, the Consumer Partnership for e-Health (CPeH), has been instrumental in helping to shape recent federal legislation and programs related to HIT, and continues to advocate that effective implementation will require a patient-centered focus.
Statements from our experts follow:
“This groundbreaking study documents what consumer advocates have predicted for some time — consumer access to their own electronic health information, supported by true partnerships between patients and providers, will result in better health outcomes. This is what achieving a patient-centered health care system is all about,” said Christine Bechtel, Vice President of the National Partnership for Women & Families and a member of the Federal HIT Policy Committee. “The study underscores the importance of ensuring that the billions of dollars in public funds for the ‘meaningful use’ of HIT are spent in ways that directly benefit patients and consumers. This means giving patients access to their health information electronically, as well as providing education resources that help make sense of the information — something which must be included in the final requirements for doctors to get federal dollars for HIT.”
“This study demonstrates that robust patient and family engagement with today’s tools and information is not only possible, it’s vital if we are to realize the full potential of HIT for improving health care and outcomes,” said Eva Powell, Director of the HIT Program at the National Partnership and a member of the CHCF’s advisory board for the survey. “Consumers really do want to take a more active role in managing their health and health care, but have historically not had access to the information and tools they needed. The fact that the number of consumers using PHRs has doubled and that one in three PHR users have used the PHR to take a specific action to improve their health supports the notion that as consumers gain access to information, and as the tools available to them evolve to meet their needs, they will become more engaged. We must ensure that public policy supports consumer access to and use of information, as well as the critical partnership between patients and their providers so that people are empowered to play a more active role in their care and well-being.”
The survey findings are available at www.chcf.org.