PHR Are Like Early Email

In response to Anne Zieger’s post on PHR, John Tempesco offered this powerful insight that’s worth sharing:

PHRs will become popular when the patients don’t have to enter most of the data themselves. As more and more EHRs and HIEs begin to automatically interact with PHRs and patients have one central place to go for all their health information, they’ll catch on. Having a PHR now is like the early adopters of cell phones or email – there are few people to have conversations with.

It’s a really interesting comparison to email in the early days. I unfortunately wasn’t on email early on so I can’t say exactly what it was like, but I’ve heard stories. The interesting thing is that HIE’s seem to be suffering some of the same problem. HIE’s are often like early email since only a few people are on board with it. Plus, imagine if email required some sort of third party agreement to let you email each other?

EHR software on the other hand could become widely adopted and connected to a PHR. The biggest problem there is the major lack of standards for sending that health information. Until we solve the standards problem, I don’t think a PHR will be able to connect to the hundreds of EHR software vendors.

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John Lynn

John Lynn

John Lynn is the Founder of the, a network of leading Healthcare IT resources. The flagship blog, Healthcare IT Today, contains over 13,000 articles with over half of the articles written by John. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 20 million times.

John manages Healthcare IT Central, the leading career Health IT job board. He also organizes the first of its kind conference and community focused on healthcare marketing, Healthcare and IT Marketing Conference, and a healthcare IT conference,, focused on practical healthcare IT innovation. John is an advisor to multiple healthcare IT companies. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can be found on Twitter: @techguy.


  • In a similar vein…a practice I deal with called and asked how to export patient records.

    Hmm…you can’t. Sure you can export a CCD, but this was for an insurance company that needed more details than a CCD contains.

    So they did what any paperless office would do…printed the records

  • Did you teach them about PDF printers? Not much better than printing it out though usually since most places don’t have a secure way to transfer the PDF file to whoever needs it.

  • So let’s take this step by step;

    I’m going to the doctor. I have a mostly empty PHR but maybe I’ve put in whatever allergies or life threatening surgeries I’ve had.

    I’m at the doctor. The EHR can’t see my PHR, so anything I put in it didn’t matter anyway. I spend the next half hour scribbling as much as I can quickly remember onto a faded photocopy of a photocopy of a patient intake form. I give that to the receptionist, and maybe someone spends the next 20 minutes trying to type in what they can read.

    Now maybe the office has a pad, and maybe its working, so I actually type in what I can remember of my history. Does make more sense, of course.

    Then I go into a waiting room, and some sort of aide takes my bp, height, weight and resps, and asks me some questions. Then maybe a nurse comes in and asks me all the same questions and more. All this – maybe on paper, MAYBE on a pad or laptop.

    An hour after I arrived in the office (if you are lucky), the doctor flies in. Asks you all the same questions over again. Again, maybe paper, maybe a pad or laptop. And then the doc actually does a physical exam. Takes some more notes, and MAYBE if electronic shows you what he is putting in. Maybe does orders – same choice of how, and then maybe prescriptions, same choice again.

    If paper, he then hands you all the paper and tells you go to the front desk. Maybe he even scribbled some unreadable instructions.

    OR, if electronic, your prescriptions are already being worked at by your preferred pharmacy, the front desk gives you a print out with instructions and where to go for your lab tests, and gives you a code so you can log into the patient portal and maybe even link in your PHR.

    Of course, by me on Long Island, only my dentist and hand surgeon have EHR’s. If the hospitals (or their HIEs) have portals, they don’t tell their patients about them. A few docs do have eprescribe; more will have soon due to state laws. Few independent PHR’s around, MS has one that in another 10 years or so might be useful – if it still exists and if MS decides to add viable import and export, and if insurance companies finally cooperate, and if…

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