Overall Health Information Technology Experience. Providers were asked to what extent they had experience using various forms of health information technology in their practices, as well as what experiences their patients had using PHRs. The majority of the group reported using some form of electronic technology as a regular part of their practice. One provider noted that his practice uses Medfusion for on-line pre-registration, conducts virtual online visits, and uses secure email with patients. However, the general level of sophistication of the technologies which providers used varied widely and a few providers preferred to use more traditional methods of record keeping and communicating with patients such paper medical records and telephone calls.
Experience Using EMRs and PHRs. A few providers reported past or current experience using EMRs in their practice, while a couple of providers had patients who used PHRs. None of the group had interacted with a patient’s PHR. Providers, however, reported sharing results from the EMR with patients if the patients requested particular items or if they felt it would help patients better understand their conditions or results.
Communication with Patients. Providers discussed their various preferences for communicating with their patients. A few providers reported that they preferred to use the telephone to communicate with patients, while some preferred online communication via email. Providers varied in their opinions regarding the type of information they were willing to share over email. Some providers answered non-emergency patient questions by email while others preferred email for sending patient reminders for upcoming appointments or sending patients actual test results. One participant noted that sending test results via personal email resolved the issues around attempting to reach a patient by phone if that person is not at home. Email was also viewed by some as a more secure mechanism for delivery of personal health information than telephone voicemail messages to patients’ homes, as this information could be shared with the wrong person.