How Providers Can Make PHRs Relevant

Greg Freeman for HealthLeaders Media , December 5, 2011

At UPMC, the PHR is supported by the information technology group and no new position was created to manage it. The health system is part of a health information exchange in the area that includes nine hospitals, so Martich says it is only a matter of time before the UPMC PHR is linked with other providers outside the UPMC community, allowing patients to access all of their health information in one place even if they see
multiple physicians.

That would address the one big downside of tethered PHRs, says Alfred Campanella, vice president and chief information officer with Virtua, a healthcare system based in Marlton, NJ. In most situations, a tethered PHR for a patient (not a provider) includes only the information from the single provider’s EMR, which usually is highly proprietary. In an HIE, providers may agree to share records for common patients, with rules for how that data is accessed and protected, he notes.

Concern about the limits of a tethered option led Virtua to go in the other direction. Virtua launched its PHR in May 2010, using an application purchased from the Mayo Clinic and Microsoft’s HealthVault. The
PHR allows the patient to enter health data but also accepts input from laboratories, Virtua, and many other healthcare organizations that align with Microsoft.

“We didn’t want a tethered PHR because we didn’t want it limited to our data,” he says. “We wanted it to be something that the patient felt they owned, and if they moved this was still going to be their PHR. Even though it is branded Virtua, it has a sense of independence to it for the patient.”

This article appears in the November 2011 issue of HealthLeaders magazine.

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