Medicare faces an urgent need to optimize the efficiency, quality, and cost-effectiveness of health care services for its beneficiaries. As the largest provider of health insurance in the U.S., Medicare currently covers over 44 million beneficiaries, and it is anticipated that a massive expansion in the Medicare-eligible population will occur from 2010 to 2025. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) thus has a compelling interest in successfully leveraging health information technology (HIT), including the use of electronic health records (EHRs) and PHRs.
To this end, CMS is conducting a pilot demonstration project to introduce PHRs to Medicare fee-for-service (FFS) beneficiaries. The pilot, which represents one component of a diverse portfolio of HIT initiatives, is being implemented in the South Carolina service area by QSSI, an IT solutions contractor selected by CMS. The PHR demo, ‘My Personal Health Record, South Carolina’ (MyPHRSC) was launched in March 2008.
The Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation (ASPE) has funded an evaluation to assess the usability and utility of the PHR system implemented through the CMS pilot. It is also exploring findings related to PHR standards, design, and development. To carry out the study, ASPE has contracted with the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago (NORC). NORC is gathering and analyzing information from end-users of the PHR (consumers and providers) to learn which features they find most valuable, and is eliciting insights from QSSI and HealthTrio staff about their experiences in designing the PHR.