Personal Health Records, Portals, and Patient-facing Health Information Technologies

Patricia Flatley Brennana , Jonathan Waldb

a University of Wisconsin-Madison, b RTI International



Consumer information technology solutions are assuming increasing importance in engaging people in self care and disease management. Personal health information tools provide lay people with access to subsets of their clinical records and with the health information management tools needed for self-care and effective health care utilization. Taking on many forms, including PHRs, iPhone apps, patient portals, stand-alone applications, mHealth and Web 2.0 services, these innovative IT tools may also enable better access to the health care systems resources, including health information, appointment scheduling and provider communication, and personal health tracking. Through case studies this tutorial will introduce clinicians, systems administrators, and IT developers to critical issues regarding the design and deployment of PHRs and other personal health information management tools.

The aim of this tutorial is to provide an experienced-based, practical introduction to patient-facing HIT, with particular attention to the clinical consequences of engaging patients through HIT. Drawing from the experiences of Project HealthDesign, an initiative of RWJF involving 14 different teams from around the US, innovations in patient-centered design, clinical care experiences, and patient-gathered and contributed health observations will be explored. Drawing from 10 years of experience directing EHR-connected Patient Portal deployment, we will examine portal functions, clinician response, eHealth strategy, and the opportunities and limitations of patient engagement.

During the tutorial, participants will have an opportunity to examine and critically evaluate existing tools & applications, explore patient portals, and discuss technical, ethical and policy considerations related to the deployment of personal health records tools. An update of the national environment and trends enabling (or interfering with) deploying IT tools for direct-to-consumer will be provided: meaningful use, privacy policies, payment schemes, accountable care organizations and health reform. Participants are encouraged to appraise their institutions' current plans for deploying consumer facing HIT and to come prepared to engage in discussions regarding implementation challenges and anticipated benefits.


Outline of topics

  • PHRs, PatientPortals and consumer facing technologies

  • Design of Patient facing technologies

  • Policy and the View from the National Scene


Learning objectives

  1. Determine how consumer-facing HIT, including PHRs and patient portals help achieve clinical goals

  2. Pose solutions to the clinical and usability challenges of effective consumer-facing HIT

  3. Evaluate the technical requirements, ethical considerations and social value of PHRs, portals, etc.


Target audience

Clinicians, managers of patient portals, health educators, public health practitioners, engineers and computer scientists who work with distributed information systems, integration of disparate databases or network-level authorization, authentication, or privacy policies. Individuals should attend if they are a healthcare professional who wants to learn more about the PHRs, PatientPortals and similar technologies and their design and how this technology can help in achieving clinical goals.