Sacramento, Calif. —A handful of health insurers have formed an industry working group to ensure that patients can transfer their personal health records (PHR) between insurance companies.

The group’s existence was unveiled at a press conference held by California Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner. The working group's members include Oakland, Calif.-based Kaiser Permanente, Indianapolis-based Wellpoint Inc., Hartford, Conn.-based Aetna Inc. and Philadelphia-based Cigna.

The group says that privacy is one of the paramount principles of the PHR effort, and that it has adopted the Fair Information Practices principles, which were created by the Organization for Economic and Cooperative Development and have been recommended as basic principles by the World Privacy Forum.

Another goal of the group is to raise the profile of PHRs among consumers and to educate them on the benefits of the technology. PHRs generally operate like a calendar of medical events. They contain medical information such as doctor or hospital visits, prescription information and test results. PHRs can also include information the individual patient wishes to enter, such as childhood vaccinations, living wills or organ donation wishes and family contact information. Because the consumer’s insurer fills much of the PHR in automatically, the PHR is likely to be up to-date and accurate, the group says.

"The expanded use of personal health records will both improve patient care and potentially reduce health care costs," Poizner said.

Source: California Department of Insurance

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