The California Healthcare Foundation recently released a national survey of PHR use and users. Consumers and Health Information Technology: A National Survey, shows that PHR use continues to be less than 1 out of 10 but is increasing slowly – more so on the west coast. Findings are consistent with prior studies showing users perceive benefit in seeing their health information, like to make sure it’s correct and feel they know more about their health as a result.
What I’d really like to know is who are the non-users of PHRs and what are they thinking. Some results get at this, but not quite. Perceptions of those with lower education and more chronic conditions are key for moving PHRs ahead. Why? Because current “PHR users” are the low hanging fruit. E-patients are online doing lots of things beyond taking care of their health. They’ll use PHRs out of the gate, with little prodding. It’s the rest of the people we should care about.
The sample size of PHR users was reasonable but not huge, N = 266. One particularly great finding was that those with incomes less than 50K were almost twice as likely to feel more connected with their provider (58%) compared to those making 50K or more (31%). Now that’s value.
And the the non-PHR users? We see what functions non-users are interested in, but don’t see their views broken down by demographics or chronic conditions. One telling piece of information is this: among all adults surveyed (remember, over 90% don’t use PHRs), 57% were not sure or not aware of PHRs. Furthermore, 90% of PHR users not using particular functions said they wanted to look at test results, and 84% want to see if their health information is correct.
Taken together, we don’t need to advertise PHR trust and privacy. We need to tell people what’s in the black box – and help them know how patient portals and PHRs can help them. But first, they have to aware of them. Second, they have to understand how to get at what they want and need. Houston, we have a social marketing and an education challenge.