Personal Health Records: Evolution or Revolution?

October 22, 2008


The AAN Annual Meeting will offer "Digital Demos: Technology Solutions That You Can Afford," a free event on April 27, 2009, in Seattle. This is the second article in a series of six designed to help members understand benefits and considerations regarding digital technology in the office.

Increasingly, consumers are logging onto the Internet to help them manage their health and health care decisions. Patient-centered and participatory health information technology engages patients in their care, giving them access to computer-based tools and new sources of data and information. Patients can communicate with their doctors, schedule office visits, and pay bills.

Another use is slowly building momentum: patient participation in creating and viewing personal health records, or PHRs. A PHR is typically defined as a patient-initiated record of information such as personal and family health history, immunizations, surgeries, and so on. Rather than limiting this information to a paper format, there is now movement toward easier access through computer, Internet, or a portable storage device such as USB flash drive, disk, or smart card.

Navigating the Health 2.0 Landscape

One person who has been following the development of PHRs closely for the past several years is David C. Kibbe, MD, MBA, founding Director of the American Academy of Family Physicians Center for Health IT and an advisor to the AAN’s Practice Management and Technology Committee. Kibbe is a frequent speaker to physician audiences on the topics of health IT in medical practice and consumer uses of Health 2.0 methods and tools. He is particularly interested in the ways in which information technology can facilitate and improve doctor-patient communi-
cations and help both parties to organize and act upon health information in ways that increase the likelihood of good decisions.

"I certainly don't think that PHRs are anything for physicians to worry about or be frightened of," says Kibbe. "As they evolve they offer the opportunity for pro-active physicians and patients to extend the boundaries of their collaboration beyond the four walls of the practice, based on the best, up-to-date, and most accurate information. In the end, what we want are better clinical decisions. Engaging patients in the management and organization of their own personal health data is one route to arriving at that end."

Attend the Digital Demos Session in Seattle

Kibbe will be one of the presenters at the Digital Demos session at the 2009 Annual Meeting in Seattle. He’ll provide an overview of the several types of PHRs currently on the market, including those from Internet giants Google and Microsoft. He will demonstrate ways in which patients and doctors are finding these tools useful as bridges between office visits and periods when access to the physician is unavailable.

Other discussion topics at the session will include some of the barriers to adoption of PHRs, ways to integrate PHRs with physician-owned electronic medical records, and the standards and protocols that are developing to exchange health data between providers and patients, including those involved in social media such as PatientsLikeMe, a popular website that specializes in Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, and ALS.

For more information on the Digital Demos, contact Corinn Sagsveen at or (651) 695-2810.