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Emerging Portal Features – Not a Moment Too Soon

I suspect that most of us who have used a number of patient portals have found them, in general, superficial, and generally lacking is essential features, such as secure messaging, open notes, and informative visualization of time-series data (e.g., plots/graphs of such test results as trending blood counts).

A recent article, Optimizing Patient Portals in 2015 – Part 1, reports that

Those who have had portals for some time are leaders in the field and innovators. These organizations are looking at customization and optimization as well as adding new, helpful features. These include:

One indicator of the move toward optimization is the growing number of institutions replacing their patient portal solution according to HIMSS Analytics.

As members of Parliament are often heard, saying, “Here, here!” For some of us these helpful features won’t come soon enough; for they are not just helpful, they are essentially meaningful.

Posted in Patient Portals | 1 Comment

Smartphones: Tilting Control from Physicians to Patients

essay link

[click to read the essay]

Dr Eric Topel–physician/cardiologist, Chair of Innovative Medicine, Professor of Genomics, Director of the Scripps Translational Science Institute, and Medscape Editor-in-Chief (WebMD)–wrote the enlightening, must-read January 9, 2015 Saturday Essay for the Wall Street Journal. In it he explains how and why the smartphone, in particular, will revolutionize medicine and healthcare, tilting control of healthcare from physicians to patients.


click for book review

He illustrates his forecasts by describing smartphone and related technologies already developed and in use, and by extrapolating from them to future technologies and healthcare scenarios in which patients, smartphones, and adjunct technologies prevail.

The trip to the immanent future of healthcare Dr Topel narrates in the essay and in his book is a fantastic voyage which no one should miss.   Continue →

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A Happy New Year, HealthIT?

Many of those interested and concerned with HealthIT are looking at 2015 as a critical year, especially for the fate of  electronic health records (EHR).

Arthur Allen, editor of eHealth at Pro Politico, muses on the problems 2015 brings for EHR, describing well the factors contributing to the immanent issues and crisis.

Of course, the fate and future of personal health records (PHR) will depend on a healthy EHR ecosystem. This month one percent Medicare payment penalties kick in for healthcare providers who do not demonstrate ‘meaningful use’ of patient information, including sharing with patients. And that’s where PHR use comes into play.

Happy-2015-new-year-wallpaperA happy new year for federal EHR? For a glimpse at the answer, read Allen’s article, High noon for federal health records.

Posted in Health IT, Patient Engagement | Leave a comment

@PatientPower: HealthIT Empowers Patients, Too

PaientPowerPatient Power and Andrew’s Blog are among my favorite online resources for information about cancer care. They chronicle so well the world of clinical research, promising treatments and trials, and potential outcomes. It’s great hearing the best of the best in the world of cancer research and treatment explain their work, interpret the findings, and tell us what it all means for cancer patients. Such health information gives cancer patients power to make informed decisions, to plan and live their lives to the fullest.

But patient power is so much more than just information about clinical advances, treatment options, and possible outcomes.1 Patient power includes our rights, capabilities, and responsibilities to access, comprehend, manage, use, and share our own health information: history, conditions, treatments, tests results, reports, and self-monitored health status. Patient power is enhanced by technologies, laws, and practices which enable us to be adequately and effectively informed, engaged, and responsible patients.

So if followers of Patient Power and Andrew’s Blog are to realize the full scope and potential of patient power, they also need to know, understand, embrace, and use the emerging technological and societal developments of health information technology (healthIT), including  personal health records (PHR), patient portals, health and fitness apps on mobile phones and tablets, and related, interoperable health monitoring devices.

The times they are a-changin’

Bob Dylan strummed, growled, and heralded change of another time: yesterday.  Yet that song could very well be an anthem for our time, today, one for the patient power health-IT and PHR will yield.

The changes which  will impact healthcare, health-IT, and patient power have been a long time a-comin’.2 They involve the confluence of a number of evolving, emergent technological and societal developments:

First, and primary, is the explosion of information technology3 enabling us to easily access and use information; electronically, often wirelessly, at work, at home, on the go.

Second is our widespread acceptance and ubiquitous use—the assimilation and accommodation–of electronic information technologies. We fit information technologies into our daily lives, and modify our lives to fit them.4

Third is health IT–the hardware, software, databases, infrastructures, standards, and processes–which healthcare providers, insurers, federal entities,5,6,7 non-profits organizations, and for-profit companies have been developing for more than thirty years.

Fourth are the emerging expectations and requirements that patients be better informed about and more engaged in their own healthcare.8

Fifth are the federal laws, policies and rules promoting, incentivizing, and mandating patients’ engagement in their healthcare and meaningful use of their own healthcare information.9

Sixth are other federal laws, policies, and rules which establish standards for health information formats, systems, infrastructure interoperability, and integrity, security, and privacy in health information storage and exchange.10.

Time for action

Q: So what should  you, a patient, do?

A: Empower yourself  by understanding health-IT and PHR, considering your options, then managing and making meaningful use of your health information.

Q: How do you do that?

A1: Start  by visiting PHR4us, a weblog developed to inform and guide beginners to health-IT and, especially, personal health records (PHR). Explore its contents and other resources to which it links.

Q: Then?

A1:  Create a PHR–one that’s accessible online (e.g., HealthVault or WebMD PHR)–for yourself and for each member of your family. Begin entering and updating your health information.

A1+: If you have a smartphone or table, download, install, and begin using some some of the useful apps (e.g., Focus on Leukemia, Capzule PHR, Cancer.Net Mobile, iTriage).

Q: What else?

A: Learn as much as you can  about your health information. E.g.,

Q: Who has it?

Clue: your physicians, clinics, medical centers, laboratories, Medicare, your health insurer.

Q: In what forms can you obtain it?

C: On paper; electronically via the internet or wirelessly, on thumb drives or CDs.

Q: How can you get your health information into your PHR?

C: Enter it manually; transmit it via the internet or wirelessly; use a mobile app to integrate it.

Q: What should you expect from your healthcare providers?

C: Some will be accepting and enthusiastic about health-IT and your PHR. But don’t be surprised if many are not, yet.

In Sum

Patient power includes patients’ engaged and informed access, use, and sharing of their health and fitness information; healthIT–including mobile apps, patient portals, monitoring devices, and PHR–will substantially empower patients, too.


  1. This post was drafted earlier this year, following communications with Andrew.
  2. My first involvement with health-IT was in the mid-80s in the Department of Veterans Affairs when it began developing a computer-based healthcare information system for its medical centers and outpatient clinics. Today, DVA’s VistA program is an exemplary EHR system with the myHealtheVet  patient portal empowering its veteran patient population.
  3. E.g., cable, satellite, and wireless technology and infrastructure; internet technology and content, including, websites, blogs, databases, and business and patient portals; mainframe computers and servers, networking switches and routers; desktop and laptop computers, personal mobile computing and communication devices, i.e., tablets, smartphones
  4. E.g., see: Patient Apps for Improved Healthcare: From Novelty to Mainstream  –  Patient Portal Infographic  –  Modern Healthcare Readers’ Favorite Apps
  5. E.g., Kaiser Permanente, DVA: MyHealtheVet
  6. E.g., Electronic Health Records (EHR); Personal Health Record (PHR) platforms (Microsoft’s HealthVault, WebMD PHR), Blue Button, Continuity of Care Document (CCD)
  7. E.g., medical history, conditions, visitations, treatments, medications, tests, health status, and patient education and counseling.
  8. See:Engaging Patients in Their Health Care. An informed, engaged ePatient.9,10 will become a principal player on his/her own healthcare team, monitoring, aggregating, and updating personal health information in the PHR from from the stove-piped electronic health records (EHR) and patient portals of multiple healthcare providers and insurers.
  9. What is Meaningful Use? – ePatient Dave: “Gime me my Damn Data”
  10. See selected TED Talks on Personal Health IT.

Posted in Health IT, Patient Engagement, Patient Portals, Patient Rights, Patients, PHR/EHR | Tagged | 3 Comments

TED Talks on Personal Health IT

One of my favorite sites on the internet is TED. The TED credo is ideas worth spreading. Virginia O’Leary and I developed The Best of TED class for members of the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) at Auburn University.

One of the sessions was devoted to Personal Health IT. I invite you to visit the class weblog and view the TED Talks we selected for that class. I’m sure you will find them informing, intriguing, and inspiring.

Posted in Apps, Health IT, Patient Portals, Weblogs | Tagged | Leave a comment

Data for Individual Health: Towards a Learning Health System

JASON, an independent advisory group of scientists, has issued a very interesting and informative report, Data for individual health, with findings and recommendations for a patient-centered Learning Health System  in which the focused is on the health of individuals rather than the care of individuals. The report builds upon an earlier 2013 report, A robust health data infrastructure.

healthit_gov_sites_default_files_2014-JASON-data-for-individual-health_pdf 2

Figure 2-6. The architecture proposed by JASON is meant to tie together diverse information resources and so is also applicable to a learning health system.

“Success would allow the emergence of a Learning Health System able to leverage electronic health records and an entirely new set of health and wellness inputs, from personal health records to environmental data. Such a system would also leverage basic research, clinical practice, public health, and community involvement.” (Conclusions, p. 87)

Individual personal health records (PHR) are essential components of this patient-centered framework, enabling the learning shift in focus from care to wellness.


Figure 2-3. Integration of data required for a Learning Health System.

We see in this report the ideas, findings, and recommendations of the best and brightest scientists as they offer insight and guidance in the evolution of the health information systems in the United States. For anyone interested in health IT and PHR, this report is a worthwhile read.

Posted in Health IT, Patient Engagement, PHR/EHR | Leave a comment

The Transformation of the Wearables

A recent post on The Motley Fool website is, in a number of respects, very enlightening. First it reveals the strategic moves that are taking place in the fast-emerging health and fitness technology marketplace. Second, it gives a hint of HealthVault’s likely future as Microsoft integrates it into its cloud-based platform, Azure.  Third, it gives some insight into where smart money is likely to go as Microsoft, Apple, and suppliers of wearable devices and technology benefit from the surge.

[Following are lead-in excerpts from the Fool’s post. Click  More → to read the full post.]

The Mobile Health Market

The global mobile health market, which includes all fitness apps and wearables, is projected to grow from $1.95 billion in 2012 to $49 billion by 2020, according to Grand View Research. More →

Fitbit & Apple


Fitbit and Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL  ) have been waging a passive-aggressive war against one another over the past few weeks. First, Fitbit snubbed Apple’s Healthkit platform. Apple responded by announcing that it would stop selling Fitbit devices in its Apple Stores. Reports then emerged regarding a “superwatch” known as the Fitbit Surge, which seemed squarely aimed at taking down Apple’s Watch. More →

HealthVault & Azure

Although it launched seven years ago, Microsoft still hasn’t smoothly integrated HealthVault into its mobile devices.

Microsoft’s HealthVault app for Windows 8. Source: Microsoft.

However, Microsoft has been slowly integrating HealthVault into its main cloud-based platform, Azure, so it can synchronize health data across multiple devices when Windows 10 launches next year. For example, Microsoft recently rebranded its Bing Health & Fitness App as MSN Health & Fitness, which now synchronizes directly with Azure instead of HealthVault. More →

The Smart Money

[W]e heard about the Apple Watch, which will be one of the most transformational products in recent memory. The real money won’t be made from shares in Apple, however. More →

Posted in HealthVault, Wearables | Tagged | 1 Comment