Patients poll for shared healthcare records

Nearly 80 per cent of Veterans Affairs (VA) patients would like to share their electronic health information with family members, caregivers and outside providers, according to a study published in Annals of Internal Medicine.
Donna Zulman, MD, Instructor of Medicine at Stanford University and Investigator at the VAPAHCS Center for Health Care Evaluation says  "Patients were overwhelmingly interested in allowing their caregivers and health-care providers to access their online health information and help them manage their health care".
Large health-care systems are increasingly using electronic personal health records (PHRs) to provide information to patients and engage them in their care. In contrast to the electronic medical record, which is primarily for the health-care provider or physician, the PHR contains information specifically for the patient, such as lab results, prescriptions and scheduled appointments.
Currently, few PHR systems allow patients to share access to their online personal health information with other people, such as family members. The VA medical system, which uses an electronic record system called "My HealtheVet," wanted to know what their patients thought about sharing PHR access.
"Government agencies and others are making considerable efforts to use newer technologies — including Web-based platforms — to enhance communication among patients, their families and their providers in order to enable all involved to make the best health-care decisions possible," said Joel Kupersmith, MD, Chief Research and Development Officer for the Veterans Health Administration.
"This study shows that a majority of veterans who use MyHealtheVet are strongly behind these efforts."An accompanying editorial in the journal cites Zulman’s paper and a related study in the same issue as evidence that supports facilitating patient access to their digital files to improve transparency in health care. 
"Electronic health records should be used to engage patients, their caregivers, and others in the health-care delivery system," writes Thomas Feeley, MD, of the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, and Kenneth Shine, MD, of the University of Texas System. 
"Expanding who uses the records and how they use them promises to facilitate communication, decrease redundant testing and enhance our care delivery in ways we have yet to imagine."
Zulman and her co-authors surveyed a random sample of 18,000 My HealtheVet users through the online record system between July and October 2010. They asked users, "If you could allow one or more people to see some or all of your information in your My HealtheVet PHR, which of the following people might you choose?" Possible options included a spouse or partner, child, other family member, unrelated caregiver, friend or neighbor, non-VA health-care provider and none.
Almost 80% of survey respondents expressed interest in sharing access to their records with one or more individuals (62% with a spouse/partner, 33% with another family member and 25% with an outside health-care provider).