Indian Health Service to develop online PHR system

The Indian Health Service (IHS) is offering patients Web access to a portion of the medical and administrative information it holds in the IHIS Medical, Health and Billing Records system as part of a personal health records (PHR) system it is developing.

Initially, tribal patients will have access to view and print portions of their official IHS electronic health record (EHR) via the Internet, according to an announcement in the Oct. 29 Federal Register.

Future IHS PHR functionality will include tools patients can use to improve their health and increase their knowledge about their health conditions; increase communication with their care providers through secure electronic messaging; request online prescription refills and view upcoming appointments; and enter their own medical information in a self-entered health information section through a secure and private health space.

Initially, the IHS PHR will not provide user access to a patient's personal health information to anyone other than the patient. The print functionality of the IHS PHR will allow patients to share all or part of the information in their account, once the patient prints it out, with personal representatives that they designate, such as family members, legal guardians, as well as IHS and non-IHS healthcare providers.

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As the IHS PHR continues to be developed, it will have the ability to register and verify the identity of the patient's personal representative, in order to provide the representative with user access to the patient's records.

Future system enhancements will enable the IHS PHR to store the patient's self-entered information in a separate database, which will eventually be able to be linked or incorporated into the patient's official electronic health record upon the patient's request and/or the IHS's determination that it is appropriate to include.

IHS detailed the PHR in a Privacy Act System of Records Notice, in which agencies must detail the information they hold and how it is used and protected to assure that it is not disclosed to unauthorized users. The system of records becomes effective Dec. 13.