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6/7/2012
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AARP/Microsoft Launch Personal Health Record

Although most consumers aren't crazy about PHRs, AARP is betting on a MS-powered new offering to spark their interest. Will anybody pay attention?

Is A Personal Health Record In Your Future?
Is A Personal Health Record In Your Future?
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AARP placed its bet on Tuesday, joining forces with Microsoft to launch AARP Health Record, an online service that offers members the chance to enter, store, and edit their personal health information. The organization hopes its members will use the service to share the information with caregivers, family members, doctors, and other healthcare providers.

Microsoft's HealthVault, a cloud-based platform that enables individuals to compile and store personal health information from multiple sources in a single location, powers the AARP Health Record. The AARP also allows members to create additional profiles for their spouse, children, aging parents, or anyone whose health they need to monitor or help manage.

Because AARP built its Health Record on top of Microsoft HealthVault, it can connect with all of the data sources that are part of the HealthVault ecosystem, according to Sean Nolan, distinguished engineer at Microsoft and the chief architect for Microsoft HealthVault. In an interview with InformationWeek Healthcare, Nolan said most electronic health record (EHR) systems are now capable of exchanging information with HealthVault in some way.

"Some EHRs, such as Allscripts, have made direct connections [to HealthVault]; others use the emerging Direct Project secure messaging standards; and still more have used middleware applications that can connect between any HL7-capapble system and HealthVault," Nolan said.

[ Wearable devices equipped with sensors and Web connections help consumers track health and fitness. Take a look at what's possible now. 10 Wearable Devices To Keep Patients Healthy. ]

AARP members using the HealthVault platform can select among hundreds of connected health and wellness applications to monitor chronic conditions and share data with their doctors, or track wellness or fitness goals, according to Nolan.

AARP members can also import prescription history from a HealthVault-connected pharmacy--like CVS Caremark or Walgreens--into their AARP Health Record, or enter prescriptions manually. Additionally, HealthVault is connected to two national laboratories: Labcorp and Quest. Patients can easily link their HealthVault records to these systems and automatically receive results that will be available in their AARP Health Record.

But despite its advanced features and user-friendly tools, the AARP Health Record faces an uphill battle in a marketplace that has seen lackluster adoption of PHRs.

"My first reaction is ho-hum. It's mildly interesting, but only just. It's not because HealthVault isn't a good product, because I think it is, but this approach is just not going to move the needle on the use of PHRs in any significant way," Nancy Fabozzi, an analyst at Frost and Sullivan, told InformationWeek Healthcare.

Fabozzi said her company's research shows that there are many barriers to getting consumers to use PHRs. She also said many of the measures that might get AARP members to adopt the technology are not outlined in AARP Health Records' press release.

"The process has to be absolutely simple and seamless, ideally with data being populated from the provider and/or payer in addition to the end user (or trusted affiliate) entering in information. ... I know that HealthVault has the capability to auto populate data, but I didn't see anything in the announcement that conveyed that feature as part of this AARP deal," Fabozzi explained.

She also said that while she understands why AARP wants to offer a PHR to their members, the organization's efforts won't be significant unless they do something new and innovative.

"Just offering access to the PHR as a free add-on to membership is not enough. Similar efforts have failed, quite frankly," Fabozzi said. "To really make a program like this take off, the sponsors--AARP or anyone else--need to incorporate more proactive approaches to reach out and drive engagement through some kind of rewards program, as well as hands-on, low-tech approaches that help seniors understand the value of the tool and how to use it to improve their lives."

Nolan noted that Microsoft is working with companies like ZweenaHealth and UNIVAL, who will assist in converting paper records into electronic information saved in HealthVault. He also observed that patients' ability to obtain their clinical information depends on how far along health providers are in adopting health information technology.

"It is certainly true that many providers have not yet fully implemented connectivity for their patients. This is rapidly changing, thanks to Meaningful Use and other basically unstoppable trends in the industry such as accountable care," Nolan said.

Slow adoption of technology among many older Americans will also impede adoption of the AAPR tool. For example, a recent study from Linkage, during which researchers interviewed 1,789 seniors between the ages of 65 and 100, revealed that only 33% have Internet access. Only 3% said they own a smart phone, 3% said they own a tablet, and 8% said they have a laptop.

However, the designers of AARP Health Record say they've taken this factor into consideration. "Boomer women, who may be more likely to be familiar with today's technology, are the backbone of the family caregiving network," Allyson Funk, a spokesperson for AARP, told InformationWeek Healthcare. "While a 78-year old patient may not be the user of AARP Health Record, his or her caregiver daughter may certainly see the convenience in and the benefits of using the tool to manage Mom or Dad's health information."

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