Medicare :: Medicare testing personal health records to help beneficiaries better manage own health care

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announced a new project expanding its efforts to encourage Medicare beneficiaries to take advantage of Internet-based tools to track their health care services and provide them with other resources to better communicate with their providers.

This pilot program will enable certain beneficiaries to access and use a Personal Health Record (PHR) provided through participating health plans, and accessible through

In general, a PHR is a collection of information about an individual?s health or health care services, such as medical conditions, hospitalizations, doctor visits and medications. The data that will be made available to the beneficiaries include registration information such as name, address, and policy number as well as lists of their medications and medical conditions.

The PHR tools will allow the beneficiary to look up information about their own medications and medical conditions to help them manage their own health care. The beneficiary is in charge of his or her own PHR and will control who is able to see the information it contains. Sharing this information with healthcare providers from the PHR will be entirely up to the beneficiary.

?By collaborating with Medicare Advantage and Part D Drug Plans which already offer Personal Health Record tools to their commercial members, people with Medicare will have access to information that will enable them to be more involved with their health care services.? said Leslie V. Norwalk, acting administrator of CMS. ?The steps we are taking today will also help CMS understand how to best educate beneficiaries on the use of their PHR and to provide them access to effective tools.?

This month, CMS will launch the program in conjunction with four health plans to test the use of their PHRs. The plans are: HIP USA, Humana, Kaiser Permanente, and the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. Each plan has a unique PHR tool that will be accessible to beneficiaries. The availability of different tools will provide valuable information to CMS on the various features offered, including which are most popular and useful to the individual.

The pilot is expected to run for eighteen months, and during this time CMS will collect both quantitative and qualitative data to assess the use, usefulness, usability, and feature preferences of the tools. The goals of the project are to:

? Determine the features that are most attractive to Medicare beneficiaries;

? Identify the minimum content and functionality for the PHRs tools; and

? Assess the best methods for outreach and education to encourage adoption and ongoing use.

Currently, Medicare beneficiaries are able to receive some personalized information about their Medicare benefits and services at the page on The ability to access a fuller, more comprehensive PHR from health plans, through the site is an added benefit to its current services.

This Registration Summary/Medication History PHR study is part of a larger PHR action plan, which describes a number of ways that CMS can help promote the growth of PHRs and ensure that beneficiaries? have private and secure access to their own health care information. CMS? action plan supports the activities being undertaken by the Department of Health and Human Services? Office of the National Coordinator, the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation (ASPE), the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, and the American Health Information Community.

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