Privacy Advisor

Personal Health Records

Privacy News

February 1, 2008

Best Practices for Employers Offering Personal Health Records (PHRs) Released

The Health Privacy Project, the California HealthCare Foundation, and a group of corporate leaders recently released Best Practices for Employers Offering Personal Health Records (PHRs). The 10 Best Practices are designed to address companies' concerns about consumer anxiety and regulatory uncertainty. Highlights include giving employees control of access to and use of the PHR, and the establishment of "chain of trust" agreements between employers and their business partners to assure that information in the PHR is consistently protected.

Over the past year, the Employers' Working Group on PHRs, convened by the California HealthCare Foundation and IBM, developed these Best Practices through a collaborative process. The Best Practices are intended to serve as guidelines for employers, not a one size fits all solution, as companies develop and implement their own PHR-related policies and practices.

The Best Practices closely follow the release of an employee survey by the National Business Group on Health, a nonprofit membership organization including 65 of the Fortune 100. The survey shows that the vast majority of employees, if offered a PHR by their employers, wants to decide what information it contains and who has access to it. Most strikingly, 85% said it was important or extremely important that their privacy be protected and that employers be prohibited from accessing the PHR.

"The Best Practices will go a long way toward helping employers establish the trust of their employees —everybody benefits," said Janlori Goldman, Director of the Health Privacy Project, which staffed the initiative.

Members of the Employers' Working Group on PHRs include representatives from the following companies and organizations: Center for Democracy & Technology, Dell, Google, Hewitt Associates, IBM, Markle Foundation, Omnimedix Institute, Pfizer, Pitney Bowes, Revolution Health, Wal-Mart and WebMD.