Personal health record (PHR) - landscape review

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NHS England provided the Royal College of Physicians (RCP) Health Informatics Unit (HIU) with grant funding to undertake a landscape review of current personal electronic health and care record (PHR) activity in the UK.

Key recommendations

  • There is little information available on the usage of PHRs in the UK, but it appears that the number of both individual users and organisational users is low.
  • Although it seems self-evident that patients and service users should have access to their electronic records, how they can do that is currently unclear, as are what data they want to see or which functions they are able to carry out using their PHR.
  • At best, there is only anecdotal information on PHR benefits, with little concrete evidence, and funding tends to be short term.
  • Where a PHR is used, it tends to be for a very specific purpose with a very specific user base.
  • Commonly identified success factors in the adoption of PHRs were: health/care professionals encouraging patients; good communications through multiple channels; support for users at the start (eg demonstrating use of PHR).
  • It is vital that patients and health/social care professionals are active participants in the design, implementation and appraisal of PHRs.
  • The implementation of PHRs has tended to focus on enhancing information sharing and communication. The failure to fully utilise PHRs for health service improvement projects may mean that potential improvements in cost-efficiency and effectiveness are not being realised.
  • Further research should seek to understand what patients require from PHRs, along with exploring and piloting projects that utilise the features available within a PHR to deliver health or social care in innovative ways.
  • With the anticipated greater use, functionality and complexity of PHRs, sufficient attention must be paid to the design and user interface of these systems to ensure ease of use by, and benefits for, all sectors of the community.

The purpose of the review is to inform NHS England’s strategy in this area, which is driven by:

These set out a vision for greater adoption of digital technologies, including PHRs, to empower patients and promote self-management.

Contact the HIU

Email: informatics@rcplondon.ac.uk

Telephone: +44 (0)20 3075 1484