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What’s Next for PHRs: Interview with Debbie McKeever, EHE International

by JMcCabeGorman

It happens all the time at packed conferences like WHCC; your days are full of appointments, lectures, and meetings, but you seldom get the chance to talk to everyone you’re scheduled to see in person.

Luckily, Debbie McKeever, President of EHE International, was kind enough to stay in touch after the show.

Debbie’s firm, EHE International,  provides a nice contrast to newer employer-provided wellness programs. Founded in 1913, the company has been around for more than 9 decades - how’s that for longevity in the space?

In true Health 2.0 fashion, Debbie provided answers to some pressing questions via email, including why EMRs/PHRs are not universally embraced (consumers not taking ‘personal responsibility’ ring any bells?).

 Here’s her take on what’s next for the healthcare/wellness industry.

EHE has separate individual and corporate offerings, which line is stronger?

EHE International’s services are available in both the corporate and individual market segments; however, our book of business is mostly comprised of corporate employers who offer our preventive care and wellness program as a benefit to employees at all levels.

EHE offers a personal health record – can you give me an idea of adoption numbers?

Every patient (employee and individual) has access to EHE International’s proprietary PHR as part of the program offering.  Within this group, approximately 85% of patients elect to have their EHE medical information populated to their PHR; a PHR that provides for management of data, forms, and records from a multitude of providers/sources.  While that number may be impressive, not nearly enough of this patient base utilizes the EHE PHR for non-EHE medical record information.

What do you feel are difficulties in systemic PHR implementation/barriers to use?

Barriers to use are not systemic of implementation or technology, but rather to the fundamental principle that far too many healthcare consumers have not accepted “personal” responsibility for management of their medical records—electronic, paper, or other types of storage/management—and continue to view this as their healthcare providers’ responsibility.  Collectively, healthcare providers need to promote the value and benefit of personal record management, namely that a fragmented system of medical record management can impede optimal care. 

You rang the bell on the NYSE for Diabetes Alert Day this year – how did that feel? Why are you so invested in the cause?

Ringing the NYSE is both an honor and a thrill, especially as chairperson of the Greater New York American Diabetes Association Board as it gave national recognition to “Diabetes Alert Day.” 

My interest (passion) about type 2 diabetes is driven from an employer perspective vs. a healthcare provider prospective.  Type 2 diabetes is at epidemic proportions in the U.S.  Today in the U.S., 21 million have diabetes, 90% of which is type 2, and another 54 million are pre-diabetes.  Type 2 diabetes can be avoided and or the onset of the disease prolonged with two simple lifestyle interventions—eats better; move more.  The impact of type 2 diabetes not only affects employers’ healthcare costs, but it also impacts the talent pool.  Because of their disease, persons afflicted with type 2 diabetes are unable to a) perform their jobs at optimal levels; and b) unfit to perform specific jobs, period.  The burden of healthcare costs associated with type 2 diabetes and its affect on talent resources will (some will argue has) make the U.S. less competitive.

What are you doing to forestall future competitors like Healthwise, Limeade, etc. from taking a piece of EHEs more established market share?

Truthfully, I’m not too concerned about “forestalling future competitors” given the depth and breadth of opportunity in this business segment due to the health of (or lack of) employees.  As the health of corporate America improves, this position will change.  Our nearly 100 years of experience in preventive healthcare gives us a clear advantage that we will continue to capitalize on (and improve) as the market changes—hopefully, changing due to improved health.

What features/benefits do you have that distinguish EHE from the next generation of HRAs/Web MDs etc?

The EHE International model is distinguished from other models as it delivers both preventive care (the evidence-based approach to health assessment, “knowledge”) and wellness (the education, tools, and resources, “access”) for personal proactive health management.  Our approach to health has changed little since the company’s founding in 1913.   We view HRAs and website portals as instrumental “wellness” or “access” modalities; from that perspective, we will continue to strive to be a trendsetter. 

Are employers asking for new/additional features to be bundled with current models for PHP plans?

Yes, as they should.  This year, as example, three new components were added the EHE International program—cognitive behavioral stress management, sexual health management, and pre-diabetes management.  In any business, your custo