Large Employers to Provide Online Personal Health Records

A group of large employers, including Intel and Wal-Mart, announced a plan to supply their 2.5 million employees with online personal health records.

Each employer is donating about $1 million or more for the initiative, which will be developed by Oregon-based non-rofit OmniMedix. A version of the PHR is supposed to be available by the middle of 2007.

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Participating employers include high-tech manufacturer Applied Materials, energy company BP, chip maker Intel, mailstream manager Pitney Bowes, and retailer Wal-Mart Stores. Intel CEO Craig Barrett said that the goal was to start providing PHRs to a diverse set of employees, then roll it out to other participants after seeing what worked.

Other employers have provided PHRs for their employees, but this program is different because it would be controlled by a neutral nonprofit entity, where neither health insurers or employees could access it, and PHRs could follow employees even after they leave the sponsoring company. The goal of the PHRs is to reduce health costs by stopping duplicate tests and by creating applications that would encourage employees to take better care of themselves.

J.D. Kleinke, head of Omnimedix Institute, said that there are still many, many details to be worked out, but that certain principles are clear. Patients would own the information in their records and would be able to select which parts of it to share with others. Information would be accessible over the Internet.

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