Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Using PHRs to improve health literacy

Ideally, the results of blood tests, X-rays, diagnostic scans and other information needs to be provided to patients in the right context, so they can track it and make sense of it. The best way to do this would be upload it to the patient’s EHR (electronic health record). A personal health record (PHR) is an online tool
(@http://www.myphr.com) which can help to increase health literacy and transform patients into better-educated consumers of healthcare. The PHR allows us to put the I in HealthIT! The information in PHRs is portable, protected and private, and its ownership lies solely with the patient. The key to success is to ensure that the information is displayed in a format that is easily understandable for the patient. Further research is needed to develop a user-centred interface design for EHRs, which provides them with a dashboard that displays basic information, and enables them to “drill down” for the relevant details they want to explore. While it’s easier to teach educated patients how to utilise this information to make decisions, patients without an adequate understanding of their own healthcare may be overwhelmed and discouraged when presented with a PHR. However, this is actually a great opportunity to improve their health literacy because a major advantage of the PHR is the ability it affords the patient to be an active member of the medical team and not just a passive consumer of healthcare services. An active team member will seek to understand the content of his own PHR. This desire can serve as a powerful motivating force in improving their personal health literacy, especially when the doctor prescribes customised information directly to the PHR, to help patients make sense of their reports. Not only do PHRs provide patients with health information at their fingertips, they make it easier for patients to connect online with their doctors through patient portals. By encouraging patients to ask questions and find out more, their health literacy improves, and health outcomes are better.

While it is true that patients with low health literacy will require extra help to learn to use their PHR, it is a worthwhile investment in their lifelong health. The personal health record (PHR) can actually increase social capital in the form of better doctor-patient relationships and improved health literacy. Patients are the largest untapped healthcare resource and PHRs can help them to manage their own health. The PHR that Kaiser Permanente offers it members, My Health Manager, is one of the biggest success stories in healthcare. It has reached four million users, and over the past year, users have accessed the portal more than 100 million times. The Blue Button initiative, rolled out recently by the US government, which allows users to download their personal health data at the click of a button holds great promise, because it encourages transparency and empowers patient with information.

HELP is organizing a conference on “ Putting Patients First Through Health Literacy  “. This will be on Sunday, 2nd December’12 at Nehru Center at 10.30a.m. to 1.p.m.  The website is www.patientpower.in/2012

The conference will be followed by a health literacy workshop in the afternoon. Helen Osborne, President, Health Literacy, a world renowned  Consultant from US , will be delivering the keynote and conducting the workshop.  Her website is at www.healthliteracy.com

At this time, we will be releasing the book, Deciphering Medical Gobbledygook: Promoting Health Literacy to Put Patients First , authored by Dr Aniruddha Malpani and Juliette Siegfried. This is a section from that book
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