Personal health records: a randomized trial of effects on elder medication safety

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To examine the impact of a personal health record (PHR) on medication-use safety among older adults.


Online PHRs have potential as tools to manage health information. We know little about how to make PHRs accessible for older adults and what effects this will have.


A PHR was designed and pretested with older adults and tested in a 6-month randomized controlled trial. After completing mailed baseline questionnaires, eligible computer users aged 65 and over were randomized 3:1 to be given access to a PHR (n=802) or serve as a standard care control group (n=273). Follow-up questionnaires measured change from baseline medication use, medication reconciliation behaviors, and medication management problems.


Older adults were interested in keeping track of their health and medication information. A majority (55.2%) logged into the PHR and used it, but only 16.1% used it frequently. At follow-up, those randomized to the PHR group were significantly less likely to use multiple non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs—the most common warning generated by the system (viewed by 23% of participants). Compared with low/non-users, high users reported significantly more changes in medication use and improved medication reconciliation behaviors, and recognized significantly more side effects, but there was no difference in use of inappropriate medications or adherence measures.


PHRs can engage older adults for better medication self-management; however, features that motivate continued use will be needed. Longer-term studies of continued users will be required to evaluate the impact of these changes in behavior on patient health outcomes.

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