Gary PedersonDuring the early 2000s, there was a trend of acute provider organizations and their health care information technology (IT) partners offering patients their own personal health record (PHR). Upon discharge, individuals were given a temporary user name and password and encouraged to create their PHR as soon as they returned home.
This PHR was tethered to and initially populated by the provider organization with the data from the patient’s recent hospital stay. The data were limited (perhaps a few days’ worth of lab results, allergies, medications, and a PDF copy of the patient’s discharge instructions). Furthermore, the PHR was not interoperable with any care providers in the community outside of the hospital, and it certainly did not offer an opportunity for the patient or family members to contribute to the information in the health record.
As a result, the original PHR was not very useful to most individuals, and it’s easy to see why this approach was short-lived.
A PHR tied to a specific care setting (and one that represented a very, very short episodic event in a person’s life) held no long-term value as a tool to guide an individual’s health and wellness for the duration of that person’s life—particularly when most people’s health goals involve staying out of the hospital.

Technology Gains Momentum

Although initial attempts at creating a tethered PHR were limited, the goal was a worthy one. In the long term and post-acute care (LT/PAC) world, most understand the need for a single source of truth for senior residents. And as baby boomers continue to age, this goal becomes even more important as their expectations involve taking an increasingly more active role in managing their own health and wellness.

Fortunately, technology has now caught up with the dreams of care providers. LT/PAC operators can now promote and deploy a PHR for their residents and others, designated by the resident (such as family members or other care providers) to present integrated health information in a way that was unimaginable a short time ago.

Real-Time Interoperability

Allowing the health care provider to have a global view of an individual’s care regardless of the setting in which it was delivered is a game changer for those seeking to provide more efficient care and better outcomes in a value-based health care environment. Imagine the time saved when a doctor can see all of a patient’s hospitalizations, physical therapy, home health care, medication records, and so on without having to contact those various facilities to request information.

This is achieved through real-time interoperability with the incoming data packet being “liberated” within the platform. Discrete data elements can be viewed at any time, from any device, wherever the information is needed—in essence, an e-longitudinal health record. The need to copy, fax, email, and manage multiple pieces of paper disappears from the provider’s busy workday, as does the related margin of error associated with misfiling or misplacing documentation.

Keeping PHR Person-centered

While it’s easy to see how a truly interoperable solution can streamline and inform the provider’s efforts, the person-centric aspect of the PHR shouldn’t be overlooked. Seniors understand the importance of self-advocacy and taking an active role in their health. A PHR puts them at the center of their own care by providing key information about their past care, such as vital signs and medications taken at a glance.

An important component of the profession’s efforts to reduce overall health care costs is patient engagement in planning and treatment. This means educating patients about their illness, as well as their choices for treatment and care, discussing options with providers and family members, and then monitoring compliance with treatment plans and progress made.

Today’s PHR technology does the following:
  • Allows tremendous interactivity and engagement with health and wellness care plans (imagine an easy-to-follow diabetes care plan from the connected primary care physician for patients to easily mark compliance with);
  • Focuses on medication adherence (think about a reminder sent to the patient or a designated family member that a medication refill will be needed in three days);
  • Allows monitoring of therapeutic progress without the need to enter readings due to linked telehealth devices and wearables (electronic blood glucose device, wireless scale, digital blood pressure monitor, Fitbits, and other trackers); and
  • Allows for secure messaging with the health care team and more. This sets seniors up for success as staff manage their progress against their treatment plan by reporting vitals and performance of set tasks.

Benefits for All

This incredible, new-age technology platform is changing the way health care is delivered for the consumer.

Seniors and families can rely on the visibility provided to engage in the treatment plan and daily tasks to ensure buy-in and compliance, understanding of the patient living situation, barriers to accessing care, and support systems in place. Physicians and other care team members can manage their entire populations across provider and care-setting boundaries through a single access point, making it easier to impact and monitor resident care.

Family members are kept apprised of the health status and progress for their loved one’s care plan, as well as daily activities and appointments, reinforcing the family’s choice for choosing a community for their loved one that promotes such an innovative tool for use by all the stakeholders involved in a senior’s health.

Thriving in a Changing Landscape

This ability to provide a PHR, with its visibility into the resident’s treatment plans, including progress against them, is a value-added differentiator for the organization that is looking to be successful in health care’s changing landscape. Such innovative technology will not only attract residents and their families, but health care professionals will embrace the opportunity to see their patient’s health information across care settings and to manage the coordination of their care with the right data, at the right time, from a single access point.

LT/PAC communities that encourage their residents to be actively engaged in their own health and wellness management will likely be the first to adopt this technology platform. The health information housed in a center’s electronic medical record application provides the most logical “seeding” of health information in the platform and provides a clinical baseline from which outcomes and improvements can be measured going forward.

As provider organizations seek new approaches to outcome-based care models and opportunities to attract residents, offering a seamless, fully integrated, interactive, and meaningful platform for personal health information and the PHR is certain to play a big role.
Gary Pederson is senior vice president of Life Plan Communities at MatrixCare. He can be reached at