Exploring challenges and potentials of personal health records in diabetes self-management: implementation and initial assessment

Telemed J E Health. 2007 Oct;13(5):509-17. doi: 10.1089/tmj.2006.0089.


The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) has implemented a personal health record grounded in the Chronic Care Model, UPMC HealthTrak, to assist patients with diabetes self-management. UPMC HealthTrak is based in the physician office and connects the patient, physician, and electronic medical record (EMR). Its functionalities include secure, electronic communication with the physician's office, along with preventive healthcare reminders, and disease-specific tools and information. In this paper, we describe challenges to office-based implementation of and initial patient reaction to the technology in the context of diabetes care. UPMC has deployed a secure Web-based patient portal, UPMC HealthTrak. We implemented UPMC HealthTrak in the ambulatory setting and assessed its impact on patient-practice communication. We conducted 10 90-minute focus groups (five pre- and five postimplementation) to assess patient reaction to UPMC HealthTrak. Focus groups were analyzed using grounded theory techniques. During the period September 2004-January 2007, there was no significant change in number of patient encounters or telephone calls received in our office, but the number of HealthTrak messages increased. Our 39 pre- and postimplementation focus group participants felt that the system would enhance communication with the office, and that the reminder system would be helpful. They also liked having access to laboratory tests remotely. They were frustrated when tests were not released and messages not answered. A Web-based patient portal can be integrated into a clinical office, although patients may not quickly change communication patterns. Patients are responsive to technology. Future work should focus on diabetes-related outcomes assessment and intensifying interventions.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Communication
  • Consumer Health Information
  • Diabetes Mellitus*
  • Female
  • Focus Groups
  • Humans
  • Internet
  • Life Style
  • Male
  • Medical Records Systems, Computerized*
  • Middle Aged
  • Pennsylvania
  • Program Development*
  • Program Evaluation*
  • Self Care*
  • Telemedicine / organization & administration*