The California HealthCare Foundation yesterday released results of what it is calling a "ground-breaking study" of personal health records. Interestingly, the foundation emphasized findings that tend to fall in the "duh" category.
The lead of the foundation's news release, for example, trumpets that "Americans who have access to their health information through personal health records (PHRs) report that they know more about their health" as compared to people who don't have access to their paper records.
"This survey shows that when individuals have easy access to their health information, they pay greater attention to their health," said Mark D. Smith, president and CEO of CHCF.
Really? If you have access to information, you're more likely to be informed? Groundbreaking.
Information is power, and well-informed patients are powerful advocates for their health care. The health care community historically has done a poor job of sharing data with patients, and that must change, regardless of the records platform. I'm reminded of Seinfeld episode 139 ("The Package.") in which Elaine, deemed a difficult patient, is refused treatment for a bothersome rash. Eager to identify and treat the condition, she enlists Kramer, posing as Dr. Van Nostrand, to filch her chart. It ends badly, of course.
[It must be noted that giving away other people's money pays well. Eight people at CHCF earned in the neighborhood of a quarter million in 2008, when the foundation's assets topped $913 million. Smith's salary and benefits totaled at least $712,000. A year later, assets had dropped by a third, to $624 million. Smith's compensation declined by a commensurate amount. ... As if.]
The survey also found that patients continue to be concerned about the privacy of digitized health records. Nothing new there.
And the people who are most likely to benefit from having access to personal health information tend to be older, less educated, less wealthy and suffering from chronic illnesses. They also are least likely to use personal health records, which are accessed at greater rates by younger, highly educated, higher income white men.
Again, not a big surprise. It's well known that the incidence of chronic conditions such as diabetes, heart disease and obesity correlates with lower levels of wealth and education. Access to technology correlates with greater wealth and higher levels of education (which correlates with race) and youth.
Buried deep in the survey (question 23 of 35), participants were asked about the sources of personal health records they prefer. Almost six of 10 respondents indicated that they would be interested in a personal health record that came from the person's hospital or medial practice, and half were favorably inclined toward records sponsored by their health insurance plan.
When asked about their interest in personal health records supplied by "a company like Google or Microsoft," titans of the personal health record sector, a relatively paltry 25 percent of survey participants indicated interest.
That data point may not be groundbreaking, but it's sure to kick up a bit of dust.