Before delving into those challenges and some of the approaches to addressing them, it is encouraging to note that both the federal government and consumers exhibit interest in increasing prevalence of consumer health IT.
The Bush Administration has advocated for the expansion of health IT, as reflected in the President’s 2004 declaration that the majority of Americans should have interoperable electronic health records by 2014. A “framework for strategic action” also emerged from this policy platform. Encouraging “consumer-centric” care (including promoting the use of PHRs) is an important component of this framework.
The push for consumer use of these technologies coincides with a larger trend towards consumer-directed health care, which also includes high-deductible insurance plans and other means of reinforcing personal responsibility for health. One expert speculated that as individuals are assuming more of the costs of their care through larger deductibles and higher copayments, their demand for computerized wellness products might grow.
There are indications that consumers would be interested in engaging more with electronic tools. For example, although the actual level of PHR use is low, a majority of Americans agree that they would like to be able to use some of the functions associated with them. For example, one survey found that 90% of respondents believe that monitoring their symptoms via a secure online network would be very important. Individuals with health concerns and those who perform other online activities are particularly likely to state their interest in the benefits PHRs could deliver. Online communications with providers is another area where interest levels appear higher than current use levels. The majority of survey respondents said they would be interested in electronic communications with providers in order to: ask questions when a visit is not necessary (80%); set appointments (69%); receive test results (69%); and receive prescriptions (67%).