Washington needs focus on PHRs

May 15, 2009

New federal health IT leaders need to focus more on personal health records, says one expert.

In healthcare IT news, Virginia Technology Secretary Aneesh Chopra has been named the nation’s first chief technology officer, and former Harvard Medical School Professor David Blumenthal has been named head of the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT at HHS.

Prior to serving as Virginia’s technology secretary, Chopra served as managing director with the Advisory Board Company, a publicly traded healthcare think tank serving nearly 2,500 hospitals and health systems. In his new role as CTO, Chopra’s duties will include developing “national strategies for using advanced technologies to transform our economy and our society” such as “reducing administrative costs and medical errors using health IT.”

Blumenthal reportedly will work on efforts to establish a national electronic health record system, and possibly EHR system certification criteria.

According to TriZetto CEO Jeff Margolis, as healthcare IT initially gets off the ground in Washington, D.C., it is a “very provider-based view of healthcare IT.”

It’s critical as the White House looks at the $19 billion in federal stimulus package funding aimed at encouraging EHR adoption, that attention is paid to personal health record funding, as well, according to Margolis.

“I am a big proponent of all types of digitized records-and it’s a very challenging task to get these implemented, because it’s not just technology work, but a change of people and processes, and in some cases, attitudes,” Margolis says. “For several reasons, there’s a lot of focus in Washington on funding the development of electronic records in hospitals and medical practices. However, a very rich repository of health records already exists in health plan administration systems. For each patient experience there is a diagnosis code, prescription drug information, lab tests, and the treating physician. Patient health information is already digitized in payer systems. And the payer-based PHR is the only record of health information that captures a patient’s experience in multiple provider settings over a discrete period of time. There is that ability for payers to populate records among consumers. If the deeper clinical records exist as well, great, but if they don’t there’s an electronic assist in the PHR.”