Despite high levels of interest, the vast majority of US citizens have yet to use or create a personal health record (PHR)

A new study by Manhatten Research estimates that seven million Americans accessed PHRs online in 2008, but says significant barriers still hinder wider adoption.

The Cybercitizen Health v8.0 study says offerings from vendors – ranging from Google, WebMD and Microsoft to multiple insurers and employers – have helped create buzz around PHR in the past year, but adoption has lagged behind the hype.

The report says that for average consumers not motivated by a serious illness, significant barriers such as privacy concerns, lack of understanding, and doubts to PHR efficiency hinder adoption.

“Despite the rapidly increasing supply of PHR platforms, consumer adoption of PHRs is unlikely to show significant growth in the absence of major physician participation,” said Erika S. Fishman, director of research at Manhattan Research.

He added “education and awareness building” will be essential in establishing the need for a PHR in the mind of American consumers. “In a time when our country has not made health IT and electronic medical records a priority, it is understandable why consumers may not see the value in putting in the effort to keep a PHR on their own, unless they are highly motivated to do so because of an illness."

The research for Cybercitizen Health v8.0 was carried out in Q3 2008 among 8,714 US adults. The report focuses on how consumers use new media and technology for health and its impact on treatment and product decisions.