Online Services Help Consumers Take Larger Role In Medical Care

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The Wall Street Journal on Tuesday examined the "many online services popping up to help consumers take a more active role in their medical care ... at a time when employers and legislators are pushing more health care responsibilities on to workers." Several companies -- such as Change: Healthcare, Intuit, Revolution Health and SmartMC -- offer the services, which include summaries of all medical bills, personalized telephone support for questions related to medical care and health insurance, programs that automatically upload statements from physicians and health insurers, and security tools to ensure privacy.

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According to the Journal, the services, which can cost as much as $129 annually, "aim to bolster" personal health records, but they have some "certain limitations." For example, "consumers may be stuck typing in all of their information by hand" because many medical records are not available in electronic form, and hospitals, physicians and health insurers often cannot share the information because of the lack of "any sort of technological standards" for electronic health records, the Journal reports.

Many analysts recommend that consumers establish their own PHRs because the "person who will truly be responsible for one's health care in the end is that person," according to the Journal (Lawton, Wall Street Journal, 9/4).

Reprinted with permission from kaisernetwork.org. You can view the entire Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report, search the archives. The Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report is published for kaisernetwork.org, a free service of The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. 2007 Advisory Board Company and Kaiser Family Foundation. All rights reserved.

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