The Value of Personal Health Records and Web Portals to Engage Consumers and Improve Quality

The use of patient-facing health information technology (HIT) platforms, such as personal health records (PHRs) and web portals, holds the promise of engaging patients in their own health care with the ultimate purpose of improving overall quality and health outcomes. Several Aligning Forces for Quality (AF4Q) Alliances, a national program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, indicated an interest in exploring how these tools may be implemented for specific projects within their communities. As a result, the Health Information Technology Resource Center (HITRC) for AF4Q convened the PHR and Web Portal Work Group from May 2011–January 2012.

This brief describes what we know about PHRs/web portals and the work group’s lessons learned regarding the potential value that the use of these platforms can bring to patients, consumers, providers, and local AF4Q communities in enhancing patient engagement and quality improvement. While near-term opportunities exist, challenges must be overcome for these platforms to reach their full potential.