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Josette Jones

Informatics prof co-authors study to help make personal health records more usable

January 13, 2012

Although personal health records are now securely accessible online to a large and growing number of individuals, little research has been conducted on opinions about their ease of use.

A new study, co-authored by Josette Jones, associate professor of Health Informatics, recruited patients into a human-computer interaction laboratory to determine the user experience for several popular functions of the Department of Veterans Affairs’ MyHealthVet, the most widely disseminated personal health record system in the United States. The study appears in the supplement to the December 2011 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association.

Gaining insight into facilitators and barriers to adoption of MyHealthVet, the most pervasive example of patient-centered technology currently in use, will provide guidance for the design and redesign of next-generation systems.

The researchers studied four functional areas of MyHealthVet: registration and log-in; prescription refills; tracking of self-reported health information such as colonoscopy test results and physical activity diary entries; and searches for health information about specific topics such as post-traumatic stress disorder.

Once into the secure Web-based system, users found the prescription refill function to perform better than expected. More than 20 million refills have been ordered online through MyHealthVet since 2005. Some users were concerned about the system displaying the names of their specific drugs, a possible issue if using a public computer or sharing space in the home or office.

Patients indicated they thought it important that information they uploaded into their personal health record, such as blood sugar or blood pressure levels over time, be downloadable as graphs that they could print and bring to a future doctor’s visit.

Patients in the future will expect to access their personal health information through Web portals tethered or linked to hospital systems or HMOs, or other entities where they receive their care, the study authors note. Overall, users in this study sought aspects of personal health records that were “adding value” to their interaction with their VA care providers.

Contact: Cindy Fox Aisen, Indiana University School of Medicine, Regenstrief Institute,, (317) 274-7722.


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