Northern California HIMSS talks PHRs

At the conclusion of my visit to California, I was invited to participate in the Northern California Chapter of the Healthcare Information Management Systems Society December event, which focused on Personal Health Records. Talk about great timing. The presentations will be posted to the Northern California HIMSS web site, so rather than post mine here, I’ll encourage readers to find it there when it’s posted in the near future.

The event was held at the historic Sun Microsystems Auditorium, on the Sun Microsystems campus in Santa Clara, California, the heart of Silicon Valley. I haven’t spent much time in Silicon Valley, so for me it’s sort of a mythical place. It was a great experience.

This was a different audience for me, someone who is more accustomed to a health care provider audience, as opposed to an audience made up of technology professionals. What did I learn? I learned that there is a lot more expertise out there working to make PHRs a reality. I spoke with Martin Fisher, Chief Information Officer, from the MedicAlert Foundation about the different approaches that the health care industry and technology industry are taking to make PHRs a reality for consumers, which includes the idea that the technology sector has very good experience being customer centric across industries. The MedicAlert PHR itself is interesting – it’s a PHR that is needed on demand, must be as accurate as the most recent touch with a person’s health or health care, and has less of a dependency on historical information based on the reason for its use.

I also learned about the work that large health plans like Anthem are doing to combine the data they have in claims databases with clinical data, most notably in Ohio at the Kettering Health Network. For my part, I talked about the work Group Health Cooperative and Kaiser Permanente has done to wire the “last mile” between patients and care teams by integrating the PHR with the electronic health record. It was great to see the audience engaged and interested in furthering PHR development health care. It’s getting some real attention, and we will do well to listen and collaborate with technology experts, by demonstrating the impact on patients for everything that we/they do.

The session was coordinated by Jan Oldenburg, who is on the leadership team for Kaiser Permanente’s Jan is actively participating in supporting public forums like this, as well as investing time in defining the best PHRs through participation in policy and standards bodies. I’m mentioning this because I think it’s a promising development that organizations who implement this work on behalf of their patients are going beyond their membership to share what they know with the community, and from my perspective, I think they have to – the only way to experience the power of a personal health record is to use one yourself.

Finally, I believe several HIMSS chapters are hosting forums on patient centered health information technology across the nation, including Washington, DC’s chapter, on January 17, 2008. These sessions are open to the public and a good way to meet other professionals working in the field.


Ted Eytan, MD