The purpose of this qualitative study was to examine family practice physician and staff views on the benefits of, barriers to, and use of personal health records (PHRs). Four focus groups were conducted at four family medicine practices in Iowa and included a total of 28 providers. Overall, participants seemed to view PHRs as a source of medical information for healthcare providers when the patient's medical record is not available. Providers appeared unaware of the patient-centered features available in many electronic PHRs and how such features might affect patients and their medical practice. While physicians identified numerous patient groups that could benefit from using PHRs, they also perceived several unique barriers, including the potential of PHRs to facilitate narcotic abuse, low levels of patient computer and health literacy, low levels of patient motivation, and difficulties with PHR and electronic medical record interoperability. Physicians' relatively narrow view of PHR functions and benefits and perception of barriers to using PHRs may restrict widespread support of PHR use.
Keywords: electronic medical record; family practice; health information technology; personal health record; physicians; primary care.