Medicare to launch PHR pilot project in South Carolina

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The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) will test a personal health record (PHR) program for Medicare recipients in South Carolina this month to offer PHRs to 100,000 participants in Medicare’s fee-for-service program.

Until now, Medicare offered PHRs only to participants in certain plans that were already making PHRs available to their members.

CMS has partnered with QSSI, a small IT company based in Gaithersburg, Md., to lead the project, which calls for importing two years’ worth of Medicare claims data into a commercial PHR system from HealthTrio for each beneficiary who enrolls in the project.

The PHR project presents an “opportunity for comparing plan-based versus externally based personal health records and the utilization and the value and the perceptions,” said Lorraine Doo, a senior policy adviser in CMS’ Office of E-Health Standards and Services, during remarks to the American Health Information Community’s Consumer Empowerment Workgroup in December.

Doo said the project will include “a pretty massive campaign [to persuade Medicare recipients to use the PHRs], working with the caregiver community and other provider partners and community partners.”

The HealthTrio PHR has been modified to meet CMS’ requirements to identify the necessary modifications to enable it to export data to PHRs on a larger scale, she said.

Doo added that the Health and Human Services Department has hired a company to examine outreach and user education needs, including the ease of using the PHRs, and whether patients are reviewing the PHRs or giving their healthcare providers access to them.