I am currently in Denver, Colorado visiting my father who just celebrated his 77th birthday. As a result of several health ailments, my father makes frequent visits to the physicians at Kaiser Permanente, an Oakland, California-based health care provider serving members in nine states and the District of Columbia. During today’s visit, my father signed up for My Health Manager, a free personal health record service (PHR) for Kaiser Permanente's members. According to a press release dated April 22, 2009, "The growing number of active users — now more than one-third of Kaiser Permanente’s 8.6 million members — demonstrates that consumers find the organization's personal health record an effective, easy and convenient way to manage their care."
Kaiser Permanent's press release explains, "A key differentiating feature of My Health Manager is that it is directly connected to Kaiser Permanente HealthConnect™, one of the most robust and sophisticated electronic health records anywhere. By providing consumers with access to the same clinical record their doctors see, and with unique tools to interact with their providers and health plan, My Health Manager allows patients to become more engaged in their own health care, and it goes well beyond the standard PHRs populated solely by claims data."
Although My Health Manager provides several health management tools including health and wellness information, health plans and services, and locating services within Kaiser Permanente's expansive network, the immediate value I found is learning the details of my father's health condition by instantly accessing his physicians' notes. Moreover, I am able to track his numerous prescriptions through My Health Manager's Pharmacy Center. My father does not always understand when the physician’s diagnosis, which makes it difficult for him to explain his health issues to my siblings and me. Having direct access to my father's health records helps my family understand the diagnosis and treatment strategy.
In my blog entry, "Electronic Health Records: The Next Step in Health Care Management," I said that electronic health records (EHRs) will quickly become an essential component in health care management, which I hope will lead to a reduction in health care costs. Furthermore, not only will EHRs allow the patient to become better educated when making medical decisions, EHRs will allow families to remain informed about managing health care for their loved ones. I worry about my father's well-being; however, I am more confident assisting him to make informed decisions as a result of having direct access to his personal health records. This is particularly important since I do not reside in the same city as my father.