July 21, 2008

Blue Cross Gives Customers Secure Online Access to Personal Health Records as 2008 Hurricane Season Heats Up

Personal health records (PHR) have numerous benefits in emergencies

With July seeing two named storms threatening parts of the United States coastline, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana is reminding its customers to gather and safeguard their personal health records and other vital information.

Members are encouraged to create a personal health record (PHR) by going online at the Blue Cross website. Through a secure, password-protected self-service area called AccessBlue, members can review their current claims records with Blue Cross or its wholly owned subsidiary, HMO Louisiana. They can add their own healthcare information such as scanned ID cards, prescription medication records, names and numbers of physicians, family members' names and birthdates, immunization records and emergency contacts to create a complete PHR, which is stored safely and accessible online 24 hours a day from any internet-connected computer.

Interest in PHRs grew rapidly following hurricanes Katrina and Rita, when many evacuees found themselves as far away as Atlanta or Salt Lake City with no way to give new doctors complete, accurate information on their medical histories and the prescriptions they were taking. Blue Cross moved quickly to offer members in the hardest-hit areas a three-year claims history called the Blue Health Record. Access to the Blue Health Record was quickly expanded to many of Blue Cross' million-plus members, who could view or print a three-year look back at their medical care based on claims filed with Blue Cross or HMO Louisiana.

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana is one of the first insurers in the nation to make claims-based health records available to its customers. The initiative to provide this kind of information to customers accelerated after hurricanes Katrina and Rita struck Louisiana in 2005. The company's first response was to make drug claim histories available, and the effort was quickly expanded to include health information from physician, hospital and lab claims.

In 2007, Blue Cross debuted a more comprehensive, portable personal health record service, which allows the patient to enter more data and expand its usefulness. "For our members who must evacuate and seek medical care from new physicians, the Blue Health Record gives the new doctor an indication of the patient's medical conditions and previous care received," said Ob Soonthornsima, senior vice president and chief information officer at Blue Cross. "The addition of the PHR allows our members to access these records as well as other healthcare information they have stored that they may need in an emergency situation or in the aftermath of a natural disaster."

Several companies offer PHRs, but Blue Cross' PHR is unique because it is portable. The company believes that a customer's information belongs to the customer - so its PHR service stays with the individual at no charge even if he or she chooses another insurance carrier later.

With permission, doctors or hospital personnel can access a member's PHR to get a broader picture of a patient's health status. Both the Blue Health Record and PHR can also be useful to people changing doctors or moving to a new community for non-emergency reasons. Members without internet access can contact the Customer Service Center at 1-800-495-2583 to obtain their Blue Cross or HMO Louisiana healthcare records. 

In addition to creating a PHR, Blue Cross encourages customers to prepare for hurricane season by keeping several days' worth of prescription medications on hand in case a pharmacy is not within reach. Those with covered family members 18 and older should complete an Authorized Delegate Form so they can talk to Customer Service about these family members in case of emergency.  Louisianians may pick up a free brochure of hurricane preparedness tips at any of Blue Cross' eight district offices statewide. 

  • More about PHRs
  • More on Blue Health Record
  • Hurricane preparedness
  • Sign up for AccessBlue, the secure Blue Cross member self-service area, to create free PHR and/or access Blue Health Record

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana is Louisiana-owned and -operated. Marking its 74th anniversary this year, the company is an independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association. It is a tax-paying mutual company, owned by its policyholders. Headquartered in Baton Rouge, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana also has district offices in Alexandria, Houma, Lafayette, Lake Charles, Monroe, New Orleans and Shreveport. The company's subsidiaries include HMO Louisiana, Inc. and Southern National Life Insurance Company, Inc.