HMT1005 INDUSTRY WATCH
Consumers slow to adopt PHRs
Almost one-third of consumers recently surveyed by Forrester Research reported having a personal health record (PHR) – the vast majority of which are from their health plan. Forrester, however, does not believe it.
“These high adoption levels don’t jibe with either past surveys or adoption levels reported by health plans,” says Forrester’s Elizabeth Boehm. “Forrester believes that consumers are confused about what PHRs are and the value they offer, and that customer-experience professionals need to help sort them out. To boost consumer engagement with PHRs, health plans must agree on a standard PHR definition, couple PHRs with a value that has immediate and tangible benefit to consumers, and address lingering portability concerns.”
Putting healthcare data into consumers’ hands is a cornerstone of healthcare transformation initiatives, she adds. “If consumers have a central, unified view of their health history, health status and recent health events, they and their care providers will be able to avoid making unnecessary or possibly dangerous decisions based on incomplete or incorrect information. The hard part, however, is getting consumers to engage with PHRs.”
Forrester’s data shows that:
Fewer than one-quarter use a payer-based PHR. Twenty-two percent of U.S. consumers reported they have a PHR account through their health insurance plan. Kaiser leads the pack with a 50-percent adoption rate. United and Aetna have PHR penetration rates of 30 percent and 29 percent, respectively. CIGNA trails with 21 percent.
A scant few use Google, Microsoft or WebMD health records. WebMD currently boasts 2 percent adoption among U.S. consumers. Microsoft launched its HealthVault platform to much fanfare in October 2007, and Google quickly followed suit, announcing its Google Health solution at a Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society convention in early 2008. So far, however, each has only garnered a 1 percent following.
Two-thirds of consumers do not have a PHR – or do not know what they are. Fifty-two percent of U.S. consumers in the survey said they do not have a PHR, and another 14 percent said they do not know which, if any, PHR they have.
Health plans are reporting significantly lower PHR engagement than the 22 percent that consumers have reported. “That leads us to one of two conclusions,” offers Boehm. “Consumers think that some other health plan interaction is the same as a PHR; or they know that health plans have created PHRs on their behalf but have not found a compelling reason to engage with them. Either one is a problem that health plan customer-experience professionals need to solve. To get started, she suggests:
Craft a simple, standard definition of what a PHR is. Health plans need to collectively decide on a single, simple definition of what a PHR is and communicate it clearly and consistently to consumers.
“PHRs need to become a fundamental component of healthcare information sharing – like a credit history or a bank statement – not a strategic element on which plans differentiate,” Boehm says.
Plans may choose to layer unique communication programs on top of PHRs, she says, but the PHR itself should be universal. America’s Health Insurance Plans and the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association have already agreed to work together on defining the core elements of what a PHR should contain. She suggests now they need to do some consumer research to determine how to turn it into something consumers can understand.
Create a near-term value proposition that consumers can get excited about. To drive consumer engagement, health plans need to give consumers more near-term and concrete benefits from using their PHR. This could mean physician endorsement, explicit financial incentives, or tie-ins between PHRs and the claims and benefits questions that drive most of consumers’ engagement with health plan Web sites.
Reassure consumers that their efforts do not have an expiration date. To eliminate any doubts that consumers have about the life span of their plan-based PHR efforts, health plans should build alliances with portability platforms such as Google Health or Microsoft HealthVault – or even both – to give consumers control of their health data destiny.
IT budgets increasing
While a majority of healthcare executives, 62 percent, stated in a recent poll that capital projects are likely to be delayed at their facilities in 2010, 57 percent see their IT budgets increasing in the coming year. In response to the question, “What technologies are likely to get attention and budget approval in your hospital in 2010,” 71 percent of respondents indicated electronic medical records (EMR), and 53 percent indicated computerized physician order entry (CPOE).
“It is good news that, even in the midst of a challenging economic environment, most hospitals plan to increase IT budgets in 2010,” says Karl Straub, president of StatCom, which conducted the survey of 440 U.S. healthcare executives. “In an era where healthcare facilities are closely monitoring their expenditures, an increase in IT budgets, if focused on solutions that can deliver improved patient throughput and productivity, will have a positive impact on the healthcare industry.”
Other results from the survey:
Eighty-six percent of healthcare executives say improving productivity and efficiency was their primary strategy to accommodate future patient demand. The survey also showed that 69 percent of executives plan to invest in improving their technology during 2010.
Ninety-three percent of healthcare executives responded they are relying on case management to manage length-of-stay (LOS) in their facilities, and 63 percent are also using process-improvement efforts to improve LOS. In answer to the question, “Which solution has the most potential to improve patient throughput at your facility,” 68 percent of respondents indicated a patient flow and logistics solution.
Until recently, measurements of how EMRs impact care and healthcare costs have focused on the results seen at high-performing healthcare providers, such as the Mayo Clinic, which have spent years refining their systems. Those hospitals currently adopting EMRs, however, will see a negligible difference in care quality and cost, Straub contends.
“While EMRs and CPOE can improve care documentation and reduce errors in the healthcare environment, the industry still has a long way to go in realizing the potential of integrated patient flow and logistics solutions in helping manage operational efficiency,” Straub says. HMT
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