Portability Issues Give PHRs a Rocky Start
Dave deBronkart, a 59-year-old kidney cancer survivor, was intrigued by the ability to read and edit his medical records but nothing prepared him for what he saw in his own Google Health personal health record (PHR). According to a Boston Globe article, the medical records deBronkart transferred from Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center to Google Health said his cancer had spread to either his brain or spine and listed several other conditions he had, unbeknownst to him. His blood pressure medication also required “immediate attention,” much to his surprise.
In an endeavor to promote PHRs, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) launched the Medicare PHR choice pilot on Jan. 13.
Under the pilot, beneficiaries with “Original” Medicare can choose one of four companies—Google Health, HealthTrio, NoMoreClipboard.com, or PassportMD—to maintain their PHR information electronically. A basic PHR may contain data entered by the beneficiary and his or her provider. In this pilot, Medicare will also transfer up to two years of health information from its claims database upon request.
In a CMS press release announcing the Medicare PHR choice pilot launch, former U.S. Department Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt said, “With up-to-date, accurate and accessible personal health records, Medicare beneficiaries avoid the pitfalls of paper records by having critical information available when they need to make health care decisions.”
Although deBronkart’s experience is one isolated case, it’s enough to create uncertainty about just how accurate PHRs really are.
According to the Globe article, deBronkart was told the discrepancies in his PHR were due to the “clunky diagnostic coding language used for medical billing, or because doctors sometimes label a test with the disease they hope to rule out.”
The eventual transition to ICD-10 may resolve some of the “clunkiness,” but one thing is certain: Physicians and providers can expect an influx of phone calls from patients regarding the content of their medical records.