Medicare Launches Medicare Personal Health Record Choice Pilot

Offers beneficiaries an opportunity to maintain their own personal health records.

by / January 13, 2009

Photo: Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt

A PHR, which is controlled by the consumer, is different than an electronic health record (EHR), which is owned by and under the control of the physician.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) today announced the launch of the Medicare PHR Choice Pilot in Arizona and Utah. This pilot program will offer beneficiaries with Original Medicare the opportunity to choose one of the personal health record (PHR) products offered by the companies selected for the pilot. PHRs will allow beneficiaries to maintain their health record information electronically and Medicare will add claims data directly to the PHRs for this pilot.

"With up-to-date, accurate and accessible personal health records, Medicare beneficiaries avoid the pitfalls of paper records by having critical information available when they need to make health care decisions," U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt said.

"This pilot provides beneficiaries with a choice of products to meet their individual needs," HHS Deputy Secretary Tevi Troy said at a news conference and partners meeting in Salt Lake City, Utah, while launching the pilot.

CMS' contractor, Noridian Administrative Services (NAS), is coordinating this pilot program. The selected PHR companies offer beneficiaries a range of product choices, including ones that are free as well as ones that offer "concierge" services, for an extra fee, with additional features such as adding notes from health care providers and other sources of health information.

PHRs are tools that can help consumers keep track of information that will make it easier to manage their health and health care services. A PHR is a record of health information that is under the control of the consumer. Sometimes it only contains data entered by the individual, but it can also include information from his or her provider or from a health plan -- as in this pilot, where, if the consumer requests it, Medicare will transfer health information from its claims database directly to the individual's PHR.

A PHR, which is controlled by the consumer, is different than an electronic health record (EHR), which is owned by and under the control of the physician. A PHR will only contain data entered by the consumer or from sources from which the consumer requests information such as his or her health plan or health care provider.
Through this pilot beneficiaries who select one of the PHRs offered by the participating PHR vendors can choose to add additional personal health information to supplement the information provided by Medicare. Depending on the specific product, beneficiaries may be able to authorize links to other personal electronic information such as pharmacy data.

PHRs also may offer links to tools that help consumers manage their health, such as wellness programs for tracking diet and exercise, information about drugs and medical devices, health education information, and applications that detect potential medication interactions. Beneficiaries can elect to allow family members, health care providers, or whomever they choose to have access to their PHR. This access can allow caregivers to help manage a loved one's health or provide information that could be important to a physician caring for you in an emergency.

Each company has privacy and security standards to protect the information transmitted and stored in its PHR records. More information on the specific security and privacy policies of each of the participating companies can be found on their respective Web sites.

CMS Acting Administrator Kerry Weems said "We encourage beneficiaries to consider whether a PHR is right for them. We hope our beneficiaries in Arizona and Utah will take advantage of this opportunity to establish a PHR that will be populated with their Medicare claims data."