Evaluation of the Personal Health Record Pilot for Medicare Fee-For Service Enrollees from South Carolina. Beneficiaries’ Backgrounds.

08/01/2009

Overall Computer Experience.  Beneficiaries were asked if they used a computer on a regular basis; how often they used the Internet; and the kinds of things they used the Internet for, such as online shopping and banking, and searching for health information.  Overall, most beneficiaries in both user groups had high speed Internet connections in their homes; many used the Internet regularly, and most were comfortable using computers.  Many regularly performed activities such as banking and shopping online, while a few cited concerns around security of their information, which resulted in more limited Internet usage.  Most participants also reported that they used the Internet to search for health information. 

A handful of beneficiaries did not consider themselves to be computer-savvy. Many reported maintaining paper medical records, and one beneficiary preferred this method to using a computer. One beneficiary noted the ability to use the PHR, but the spouse would not use it because of difficulty accessing their home computer.

Alternatively, one beneficiary found that the Internet allowed many tasks to be independently accomplished, which otherwise could not have been done without assistance due to a physical disability.  The individual reported using the Internet for blogging, chatting with friends made online, banking, helping family members to organize their finances, searching for health information, ordering prescriptions, and shopping.

Overall, the group perceived the Internet as a useful source of information and beneficiaries reported that they were able to perform a variety of online functions, including online shopping, banking, and searching for information.  Additionally, a handful of participants agreed that using a computer helped them to stay organized. 

Experience Using the PHR.  Overall, beneficiaries reported having used the PHR within one month prior to the meeting; and a handful reported having used the PHR two weeks prior to the meeting.  Participants were divided on the amount of experience they had using the PHR, with some using the PHR on a regular basis and some who had only used the PHR a few times since first signing up.  All participants were eager to learn more about the tool.

Health Care Priorities.  In order to understand why particular functions or features might be important for beneficiaries, we asked beneficiaries what practices they currently had in place to manage their health and healthcare, and what they considered to be their healthcare priorities.  The most commonly cited healthcare priorities included continuity of care, concerns about reducing fragmented care, and self-managing chronic conditions such as diabetes.

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