Background: Consumer-centered health information systems that address problems related to fragmented health records and disengaged and disempowered patients are needed, as are information systems that support public health monitoring and research. Personally controlled health records (PCHRs) represent one response to these needs. PCHRs are a special class of personal health records (PHRs) distinguished by the extent to which users control record access and contents. Recently launched PCHR platforms include Google Health, Microsoft's HealthVault, and the Dossia platform, based on Indivo.
Objective: To understand the acceptability, early impacts, policy, and design requirements of PCHRs in a community-based setting.
Methods: Observational and narrative data relating to acceptability, adoption, and use of a personally controlled health record were collected and analyzed within a formative evaluation of a PCHR demonstration. Subjects were affiliates of a managed care organization run by an urban university in the northeastern United States. Data were collected using focus groups, semi-structured individual interviews, and content review of email communications. Subjects included: n = 20 administrators, clinicians, and institutional stakeholders who participated in pre-deployment group or individual interviews; n = 52 community members who participated in usability testing and/or pre-deployment piloting; and n = 250 subjects who participated in the full demonstration of which n = 81 initiated email communications to troubleshoot problems or provide feedback. All data were formatted as narrative text and coded thematically by two independent analysts using a shared rubric of a priori defined major codes. Sub-themes were identified by analysts using an iterative inductive process. Themes were reviewed within and across research activities (ie, focus group, usability testing, email content review) and triangulated to identify patterns.
Results: Low levels of familiarity with PCHRs were found as were high expectations for capabilities of nascent systems. Perceived value for PCHRs was highest around abilities to co-locate, view, update, and share health information with providers. Expectations were lowest for opportunities to participate in research. Early adopters perceived that PCHR benefits outweighed perceived risks, including those related to inadvertent or intentional information disclosure. Barriers and facilitators at institutional, interpersonal, and individual levels were identified. Endorsement of a dynamic platform model PCHR was evidenced by preferences for embedded searching, linking, and messaging capabilities in PCHRs; by high expectations for within-system tailored communications; and by expectation of linkages between self-report and clinical data.
Conclusions: Low levels of awareness/preparedness and high expectations for PCHRs exist as a potentially problematic pairing. Educational and technical assistance for lay users and providers are critical to meet challenges related to: access to PCHRs, especially among older cohorts; workflow demands and resistance to change among providers; inadequate health and technology literacy; clarification of boundaries and responsibility for ensuring accuracy and integrity of health information across distributed data systems; and understanding confidentiality and privacy risks. Continued demonstration and evaluation of PCHRs is essential to advancing their use.