US healthcare provider Kaiser Permanente has achieved a 58% adoption rate for its electronic personal health record among eligible members.

HC2011 in Birmingham was told that the PHR, My Health Manager, enables 3.4m members to email their doctor, manage repeat prescriptions, book appointments and conduct other health transactions online.

Anna-Lisa Silvestre, vice-president, online services, described how Kaiser Permanente worked to promote the service but added: “What really drives adoption is that there is relevant information and transactions that people want to use.”

She said that the number of older members using My Health Manager proved higher than expected, with a 40% adoption rate.

However, the ethnicity of users was a concern, with lower adoption rates among Hispanic members than white members. Kaiser Permanente is addressing this by producing more pages on the My Health Manager site in Spanish.

Even teenagers, who have fewer health issues than older groups, have clocked up a 20% adoption rate, she said.

“Slightly more women than men are registered,” reported Silvestre. “We believe that’s because they often caregivers.”

The most-used features are: test results; “create a message” for communicating by email; “my prescriptions” for managing medications and the “appointment centre”.

Overall, the adoption of the secure messaging service in primary care has reduced the proportion of physician’s office (surgery) visits made by members.

Silvestre produced charts showing that between Q3 of 2007 and Q4 of 2010 secure messaging rose from 12% to 28% of contacts between members and the physician’s office, while visits to the physician’s office dropped from 72% to 58% of contacts. Telephone contacts remained steady at 16-17%.

Satisfaction rates among patients were reported to be high, with many patients saying that they had saved time by not having to visit their doctor and had experienced less disruption at work caused by having to attend appointments.

Fears that the appointment booking service would be strained by members booking appointments that they didn’t need had not materialised.

It also emerged that people who booked online were more likely to keep an appointment than those using any other channel, Silvestre said.

Issues around security and privacy were often really complicated she said, adding “There is no substitute for rolling up your sleeves and digging into the issues.”

My Health Manager has been shaped by intensive research of members at home and work.

Some of the videos made of members during interviews are available on Kaiser Permanente’s pages on You Tube and the experiences of the PHR developers have been recorded in a book, Connected for Health, edited by Louise Liang.