A doctor’s view of PHRs in South Africa

on Monday, 27 July 2015. Posted in Latest News

Personal Health Records (PHR) is a new and emerging concept in South Africa. A definition of PHRs is a collection of personal health information controlled by patients with information coming both from them and healthcare providers, and maintained in a private and secure environment where patients determine access. The lack of experience with PHRs in South Africa leaves the question of how individuals will use patient portals or PHRs if they have them. Given the ability to access their health record, questions arise such as do South Africans access it? What’s the perceived value of PHRs to patients? What are the perceived barriers to using PHRs?

My report, Perceived Value and Barriers to use of Personal Health Records by Patients in South Africa for Wits Business School in 2013, investigated these questions. The study used email to survey patients who use Healthspace.

The answers may enable PHR providers to tailor their product offerings better.  They showed the following in terms of the perceived value of PHR and perceived barriers to PHR.

Perceived value of PHR to patients found that respondents:

  • Thought that the online PHR had enough interactive features
  • Are likely to access their PHR again
  • Want to be able to access their health records online
  • Found the three different aspects namely access to laboratory results, access to x-ray results and access to their summary file all useful with the strongest agreement with the usefulness of access to their summary file
  • Disagreed with the possible PHR value of decreasing the need to see their doctor in person
  • Agreed with the value of PHR to provide reliable health information.

Perceived barriers to use of PHR of respondents:

  • Disagreed strongly that they did not access their file online due to a lack of interest in their health information
  • Saw themselves as computer literate
  • Agreed that they have regular access to a computer or smartphone
  • Disagreed that they were worried about the security of their health information online
  • Agreed that they are happy to use an online health system as long as it is protected by a password and encryption
  • Respondents disagreed somewhat that they were happy to have advertising on the site
  • Strongly disagreed with paying a monthly fee for access to their online health records 
  • Disagreed that advertisers should be able to target a specific group with adverts.

These findings provide part of the foundation for the next phases of Healthspace’s development. It’ll help to improve patients’ roles in their own healthcare.

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