Nearly Two-Thirds of Americans Are Not Familiar with Personal Health Records, a Resource Available to Millions of Consumers

Aetna and the Financial Planning Association help boost awareness and educate consumers about online, interactive health records

HARTFORD, Conn.--()--An estimated 70 million people have access to basic Personal Health Records (PHRs) password-protected, online records that store essential health information through their health insurers, with millions more scheduled to receive the service this year. But when Aetna (NYSE:AET) and the Financial Planning Association® (FPA®) surveyed more than 2,100 adults 18 and older, 64 percent said they do not know or are unsure about what a PHR is. Among the group of Americans who are familiar with PHRs, 83 percent acknowledge that the online record personalizes their experience with their health care provider, but only 11 percent currently use one to keep track of their medical and health history.

In light of these findings, Aetna and FPA have expanded the Plan for Your Health public education campaign by introducing PHR information on to help Americans use PHRs to manage their personal health data and ultimately play a more active role in their health care. The site features tips on maximizing and personalizing a PHR and top reasons to use the online record. Aetna and FPA launched Plan for Your Health in September 2004 to help all Americans make smart health benefits and financial planning decisions.

A PHR offers a central, online portal that consumers can access at any time, anywhere in the world, to receive an at-a-glance record of their essential health history, current treatments and personal health habits. A PHR organizes health information ranging from health insurance claims to a history of past doctors' visits and prescribed treatments. In many cases, this medical information is added by the insurer. While PHRs do vary by insurer, the PHR can often be further customized by the consumer, adding personal information like family history of disease and allergies. When shared with health care professionals, these details can help them provide better-informed and better-coordinated care. Advanced PHRs have the ability to analyze health information within the record, comparing it to medical literature and sending personalized alerts to PHR users and their physicians about contraindications or opportunities to improve care.

Keeping an updated and accessible record of essential health information is one simple way for consumers to take charge of their health and make visits with their doctor more productive, both for the patient and the doctor, said Charles Cutler, M.D., national medical director, Aetna. But what we found in this survey is that people may not understand how PHRs can positively impact the quality of care they receive from their health care providers.

Survey Highlights:

--  When asked why they didn't use a PHR, respondents had varying
    reasons, indicating a need for education:

    --  Have their own system for maintaining records (35 percent)

    --  Concerned with the security of personal information (26

    --  Don't know how to use and manage a PHR (18 percent)

--  Even those surveyed who are familiar with PHRs may not realize
    essential health information is at their fingertips. Surprisingly,
    fewer than one in 10 would turn to a PHR to access health
    information if displaced during a natural disaster. The majority
    of respondents would contact their physician (64 percent) or
    insurance company (16 percent) or say they do not know where they
    would find vaccination records, recent test results and their
    blood type (16 percent).

--  More than half (55 percent) of the women surveyed keep track of
    their medical and health history, but not through a PHR. By
    comparison, only 39 percent of men keep track of their medical and
    health history and 44 percent don't keep track at all.

The survey uncovered a lack of understanding about PHRs even among the people who say they know what a PHR is. Only 16 percent of respondents correctly selected all the information that can be found in a PHR.

A third of the people surveyed inaccurately think a PHR could cost them more money, said Tracey Baker, a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNERTM professional and former chair of FPAs National Capital Area. What people dont realize is that a PHR may actually help you save money by cutting down on duplicate tests and unnecessary treatments.

Additional PHR Misconceptions:

--  Nearly one quarter (23 percent) of Americans surveyed inaccurately
    answered that a PHR does not impact prescribed medications. Select
    PHRs will scan health data, prescriptions and claims information
    listed in the PHR and alert individuals and their doctors of any
    contraindications or opportunities to improve care.

--  Another 23 percent are not aware that a PHR may improve a doctor's
    treatment recommendations for chronic disease.

--  Although 35 percent of those surveyed say a PHR does not affect
    whether or not they follow their doctor's recommendations, experts
    have found that keeping an updated PHR may, in fact, help patients
    comply with treatment recommendations.

About the Survey

Ipsos Public Affairs conducted an online Omnibus survey from March 8-15, 2007 with a nationally representative sample of 2,185 adults, aged 18 years and older. Approximately 36 percent or 781 adults said they knew what a Personal Health Record (PHR) was and completed the entire survey. The majority of the results reflect the nationally representative sample of adults who completed the entire survey. The survey results are weighted for gender, age, household income and region and matched to targets from the most recent Current Population Survey provided by the U.S. Census. The margin of error is +/- 3.5 percentage points.

About Aetna

Aetna is one of the nations leading diversified health care benefits companies, serving approximately 34.9 million people with information and resources to help them make better informed decisions about their health care. Aetna offers a broad range of traditional and consumer-directed health insurance products and related services, including medical, pharmacy, dental, behavioral health, group life, long-term care and disability plans, and medical management capabilities. Our customers include employer groups, individuals, college students, part-time and hourly workers, health plans and government-sponsored plans.

About the Financial Planning Association

The Financial Planning Association (FPA) connects those who need, support and deliver financial planning. FPA believes that everyone is entitled to objective advice from a competent, ethical financial planner to make smart financial decisions. FPA members demonstrate and support a professional commitment to education and a client-centered financial planning process.

About Plan for Your Health

Plan for Your Health, a public education campaign from Aetna and the Financial Planning Association, gives consumers the information they need to make health benefits and financial choices that meet their needs now and in the future. The Web site focuses on five life events when women need to re-examine their health benefits career, marriage, family, living single and retirement and offers consumer-friendly tools, tips and content that support well-informed decision-making. For more information, please visit


Kaci Williams, 202-835-9458


Kaci Williams, 202-835-9458