Harvard Docs: Time Is Right for Patient-Centered Health Repositories, Not Portals

Jonah Comstock | MobiHealthNews | January 26, 2016

A number of public and private initiatives have been launched over the years in the name of a personal health record for patients. But one way or another, they've all failed to gain traction, according to Drs. Isaac Kohane and Kenneth Mandl of the Harvard-affiliated Boston Children's Hospital, who published an editorial in the New England Journal of Medicine last week. The authors believe now might be the time to finally realize that ambition.

"In 1994, when the World Wide Web was only two years old, Massachusetts Institute of Technology computer scientist Peter Szolovits, presaging the consumer health information technology (IT) movement, proposed, in the Guardian Angel Project, using the web for patient management of health and health data," they write. "Yet getting patients electronic copies of their health records has remained an elusive goal. Industry giants have scars to show for their attempts. Why have the barriers been so high? And what is the path to a patient-driven health information economy?"

In part, Kohane and Mandl blame Meaningful Use and patient portals. Whereas PHR tools like Microsoft HealthVault and the now-defunct Google Health actually allowed patients to participate in generating and updating medical data, patient portals have mostly been read-only affairs that only allow patients to access their hospital records, and even then in a limited way. But because Federal MU guidelines required hospitals to have portals, industry energy went in that direction...