Genna Harmon has started carrying her medical records with her. Instead of lugging around a stack of paper files, though, she keeps all the...

Genna Harmon has started carrying her medical records with her.

Instead of lugging around a stack of paper files, though, she keeps all the health data on her Android smartphone.

Harmon, a Kaiser Permanente member, downloaded the insurer’s new app that allows patients to email doctors, schedule appointments, refill prescriptions, locate a medical facility, and view their medical records.

“I can look up all my records, test results, medications,’’ says the Suwanee resident. “It’s nice to have all that in one spot.’’

Kaiser Permanente did the national rollout of the app last week, making this new level of convenience available to its more than 8 million members. In Georgia, the nonprofit health plan has 240,000 members in a 28-county service area in metro Atlanta.

Kaiser officials say they believe their mobile app is more complete and advanced than electronic tools offered by other health insurers in the Georgia market.

Chip Strosnider, a Kaiser Permanente of Georgia director of business technology and portfolio management, says patients now can do everything on a mobile device that they can do on a desktop computer.

The mobile record is part of a health IT revolution occurring across the nation. Much of it involves improved connections between medical providers: hospitals, physicians, pharmacies, labs and other facilities.
For example, in Macon, Savannah and elsewhere in Georgia, doctors, clinics and hospitals are connected in a health information exchange, so a patient’s records can be transmitted across town. Georgia is building a statewide exchange, fueled with a $13 million federal grant.

But the connectivity trend hasn’t caught on for many patients.

A new report from the Bipartisan Policy Center says patients aren’t yet widely using electronic tools to manage their care or coordinate with a doctor or other medical provider. According to the Wall Street Journal, surveys show that only 7 percent to 11 percent of Americans currently use some form of online personal health record.

One barrier to the increased use of such electronic health records is that patients are concerned about the privacy of the data. But Kaiser member Arthur Cantu of Marietta, who has downloaded the app, says he’s satisfied that the security systems on his phone are adequate.

Cantu likes being able to use his phone to access his own records and those of his children, including a daughter who has special needs.

During the rollout, Kaiser officials pointed to the 24/7, anywhere-in-the-world feature of the mobile app.

George Halvorson, chairman and CEO of Kaiser Permanente, said in a statement, “The fact that a Kaiser Permanente patient in an emergency room in Paris or Tokyo can simply pull out their mobile device and have immediate and current access to their own medical information is an evolutionary and revolutionary breakthrough for medical connectivity.”

While the Android app is available now, an additional application for the iPhone will be released in the coming months.

But Kaiser says iPhone, BlackBerry and other smartphone users can visit using their Internet browsers and download a shortcut icon onto their home screens. The icon will take them directly to the mobile version of with a touch of a finger.

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Andy Miller

Andy Miller is editor and CEO of Georgia Health News

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