PHRs present both potential benefits and challenges to providers and the wider health care system. PHRs offer providers unprecedented access to patient medical histories and clinical tracking information, while empowering patients to become more actively engaged in their healthcare. Consequently, PHRs have the potential to dramatically change patient-provider relationships, expanding the flow of health care data and opening new channels of communication.
Greater access to data could present problems for providers who may not be able to sift through volumes of patient-provided health data or to verify data accuracy. Further, many in the provider community fear the consequences of secure messaging with their patients, although early efforts by Kaiser Permanente and others indicate that innovative policies can successfully harness the potential of this functionality.
Outside of the provider and payer communities, employers are increasingly looking to technologies such as personal health records to control health care costs and to provide employees easy access to their health records. Finally, PHRs have the potential to both affect and be affected by reimbursement policies, as stakeholders consider adapting existing policies to new forms of care. As this section demonstrates, few have attempted PHR implementation and many challenges lie ahead, yet the impact of PHRs has already been seen and will likely continue to be felt throughout the health care system.