Some of the criteria that have proven to be critical for electronic medical records and for health web site services can be combined to apply them to PHRs. They include: privacy, security, usability, portability, completeness, vendor reliability, and access/availability.
Availability/Access: This refers to the consumer’s ability to access and manage their personal record via the Web. Access also includes minimal accessibility standards defined by the W3C and by federal laws (508 compliance).
Completeness: This refers to the information fields available in the records. The basic PHR should capture, demographics, health behaviors, social history, family health history, allergies, medications, lab results, past medical care, current existing conditions, physician information, insurance information, etc.
Security: This refers to the technical protections available on the system including passwords, authentication mechanisms, secure connections, etc. In an ideal situation, the site should have a consumer-accessible audit log to see who has viewed the information. The site should also provide details of if/when the consumer is notified about breaches of security. Are you aware of the site security through policies and symbols?
Usability: This refers to the features available on the site. The PHR should provide the ability for a non-technical or not IT-related individual to easily join, navigate, and enter information. The level of jargon on the site as well as navigation links can influence the perceived usage. A novice user should be able to successfully complete registration, information entry, printing, saving, and information retrieval. Is there help or support available? Is the information presented using “common language” or is it full of jargon (Basically, can you grandmother understand it? Can someone with an 8th grade reading level understand it?)
Portability: This refers to the consumer’s ability to move records out of the current provider to others. This feature can be both via paper or electronic. Is the information portable – do you have to print it? Can you electronically download any of the information? Can you email the information?
Vendor reliability: This refers to the reliability and history of the vendor. A new service may not have the ability to continue business operations and has a high chance of closure. Vendors linked to or partnering with sponsoring national organization provide more stability.
Use the criteria provide to evaluate, search for a PHR. You may be able to use the one affiliated with YOUR HEALTH INSURANCE (now is a good time to find out if they have one). Or, you can find one from http://myphr.com
Write a report that includes:
Overview of the PHR
Who is the target consumer?
Evaluation of the PHR using the 7 listed criteria (a paragraph on each)
Recommendations for improving the PHR