Kennedy reintroduces PHR incentive bill

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As expected, U.S. Representative Patrick Kennedy (D-RI) recently introduced a new version of legislation called “The Personalized Health Information Act.” The legislation, which the congressman first introduced last year in October, seeks to create a public-private partnership to promote use of secure, transportable, and consumer-controlled personal health records (PHRs) and other patient communication services, according to details from Kennedy’s office.

PHRs can give patients access to and control over their personal health data while granting physicians access to essential health information for patient at the point-of-care, with the patient’s permission.

“Personal health records are a critical piece of the puzzle as we move forward in an effort to improve the quality and cost efficiency of the healthcare system in this country,” said Kennedy. “This legislation will empower consumers to be better informed about their personal health while strengthening communication with their healthcare providers.” 
The legislation calls for the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) to create a PHR incentive program with a trust fund to promote the use of the records by Medicare beneficiaries, their physicians and other healthcare providers. 

The PHR Incentive Trust Fund would receive contributions from private partners to pay PHR incentives. This three-year program would entail physicians payments of up to shall be paid at least $3 per patient annually for each eligible patient enrolled in a PHR.

In response to the legislation, Dr. Edward Fotsch, CEO, Medem, stated his belief that the legislation emphasizes the importance of engaging both consumers and physicians. “Uptake by consumers has been very low due to little physician participation. The Kennedy bill harnesses existing market forces to reward physicians for providing transportable PHRs to their patients. This strategy is key to making health IT consumer and market relevant,” he said.
The use of PHRs has the potential to limit the slow paperwork involved in much of healthcare, and gives providers and public health agencies a means by which to communicate with patients about important health issues.
“Personal health records present a unique opportunity to empower individuals to participate actively in preventing and treating chronic disease, including cardiovascular disease,” said Rose Marie Robertson, MD, chief science officer, American Heart Association.  “In order to combat risk factors for heart disease and stroke, individuals must play a more active role in their healthcare and this legislation will help them do just that.”