Literature Review and Environmental Scan: Evaluation of Personal Health Records Pilots for Fee-for-Service Medicare Enrollees. Portability Standards


Portability standards address the consumer’s ability to move his or her entire PHR to a new location. Portability more typically refers to data transfer and not the transfer of the PHR’s functionality. This becomes particularly important for patients that have visited a number of hospitals and doctors in various systems. How is it possible to gather the patient’s information from multiple providers, and aggregate this information within a PHR? Experts believe that plan-to-plan PHR portability is a necessary move in the direction of interoperability and a National Health Information Network. [220],[5][221]

In December 2007, the Health Privacy Project released best practices from the Employers’ Working Group on PHRs, an expert work group convened by CHCF and IBM which focuses on issues facing employers that offer PHRs. The work group, composed of the Center for Democracy & Technology, Dell, Hewitt Associates, IBM, Markel Foundation, Omnimedix Institute, Pfizer, Pitney Bowes, Revolution Health, Wal-Mart, and WebMD, identified a portability best practice. The portability best practice is that ‘employers should offer PHRs that are portable, to the extent feasible, allowing employees to maintain or move the PHR and/or the data it contains even after employment or coverage ends or changes.’[222]

Standards and communication protocols are currently available to transmit information from other systems to PHRs. Common standards and protocols include Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP), File Transfer Protocol (FTP), Simple Object Access Protocol (SOAP), Extensible Markup Language (XML), Web Service Definition Language (WSDL), and Universal Description Discovery and Integration (UDDI).

HITSP and Integrating the Healthcare Enterprise have worked to empower the consumer with the ability to manage their health care information, and be able to further distribute that information to providers. Efforts underway to develop portability standards for PHRs are discussed in this section.

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