Dossia’s Rebuild – Is it Enough

by | Jul 25, 2011

Following closely on the ill-fated demise of Google Health, fellow Personal Health Platform (PHP) provider Dossia announced last week a major upgrade of their platform with the release of Dossia Health Manager. We received a deep product dive at the end of last week and spoke with Dossia’s new CEO, Mike Critelli this morning. Initial take: Health Manager is a restart for the the oft-times struggling Dossia. Following is part one of our assessment.

Dossia was founded what seems like nearly a century ago but in reality, five short years in 2006. (Maybe we need to measure the PHR market like dog years with every human year representing 20 PHR/PHP years.) In 2007, Dossia chose the Indivo platform, which was developed at Children’s Hospital – Boston, as the basis for its future PHP. One could easily argue that Dossia and the Indivo platform it was developed on was the precursor for both Google Health and Microsoft’s HealthVault.

Beginning with six founding members, all large self-insured employers including among others Intel, AT&T, and Pitney Bowes, Dossia struggled to get the platform live but was finally able to pull it off for member Wal-mart in October 2008. The PHR partner for Wal-mart on the Dossia platform was WebMD. Reports we received from the field on this deployment were not encouraging as it appeared that there was a major push to demonstrate the value of Dossia and we all know what happens when things get pushed before they are fully baked. Dossia learned a lot in that first deployment and has proceeded ahead in a more methodical fashion and now has 6 of the now ten founding members live on Dossia. Unfortunately, Critelli was unwilling to state how many employees of founders are using Dossia today, which makes one assume that the majority of these current deployments are in pilot stage.

In addition to getting Dossia live, Dossia has struggled to attract new employers. In the five years since its founding, only four new employers have joined. This raises the larger question: Can Dossia become a viable entity? Jury still out on that one but based on what we saw last week and our conversation with Critelli this morning, Dossia is on the right track.

Dossia Today:
Let’s start with the new Health Manager.

As we have argued countless times on this website, no one, absolutely no one is interested in a digital file cabinet for their personal health information (PHI). But what they, call them patients, employees, consumers, citizens, whatever do desire is a system, a platform that allows them to leverage their PHI to better manage their interactions with the healthcare system as well as potentially manage their health or the health of a loved one. Ideally, such a platform is intuitive to use (Google Health was quite good at this), readily imports data from a multitude of sources (HealthVault excels here), and provides a number of tools that leverage one’s PHI that are simple to select and use. This is a core competency of WebMD’s own private portal offerings (sold to payers and employers) and is Dossia’s chief competitor.

With the release of Health Manager (will be available to employers this fall), Dossia has brought together a fairly compelling, self-contained and comprehensive solution that should prove attractive to employers. This may be the first serious threat to WebMD’s dominance in the employer market and as we have reported before, WebMD has been milking their private portal business for a couple of years now, has seen contraction and is vulnerable.

The Dossia Health Manager starts off by providing the user the opportunity to chose from among a number of different apps to engage including the usual list of health content, medication manager, an immunization tracker, even the free text4baby app. One will also find, via partners, the Healthcare Blue Book to provide procedure pricing transparency, AmeriHealth for telemed as well as some social media/gaming functions that employers can leverage to incentivize healthy behaviors.

Once the various apps and functions are chosen by the user, the user is presented with a dashboard that is customized to their specific needs. As with most PHRs and PHPs, a given user can take on the role of family CMO (chief medical officer) and with the consent of other family members, view their records as well.

Having seen earlier versions of Dossia, this is an absolutely huge step forward for them in the creation of a simple to use and simple to understand PHP. What is particularly nice about Health Manager is that it provides the user a fairly selective, but complete set of core functionality. The Dossia has taken out some of the mystery and challenge that confronts many a consumer when they attempt to use one of the other PHPs in the market, specifically: which application should I use to manage this aspect of my health? Good luck trying to do that on HealthVault as the the choice (there are 23 PHRs to chose from) is a bit overwhelming and ultimately paralyzing.

But in providing this capability, Dossia has made a conscious decision to tread into the PHR waters themselves providing base PHR functionality. So long WebMD (that relationship with Wal-mart dissolved some time ago) and so long other PHR providers looking to ride atop of the Dossia platform, you’re likely to not get invited to the dance (unless of course you can get an employer customer of yours to demand such from Dossia, which is the case for Intel, who is also using Mayo’s Embody Health). Chilmark sees this as a logical and needed progression for Dossia as employers do not want a multitude of apps to manage for health and wellness initiatives, they want one comprehensive, easy to understand and deploy solution. Dossia is now prepared to deliver on that need.

Our next post will dig deeper into the business of Dossia and its go to market strategy, which to date has been, shall we say less than stellar.


  1. Dan Munro

    Great post – and insight (as always). The lead-in question is near perfect too.
    With only 6 out of 10 member companies deployed after 5+ years and $15M spent, it’s a great question.

    One question I had, do you think this now qualifies as the model of a Collaborative Health Record (CHR) that you referenced in March (Much Ado About Patient Portals – )? Didn’t catch much in the review about patient exportability of their PHI – and I know that has been an issue with the large, walled-garden PHR’s like Dossia and KP (to name 2) in the past.

    • John

      Dossia has always supported ful portability of one’s PHI. Granted, it is almost entirely claims and PBM data, but hey, its more portable than the abysmal track record of most payers and their support of portability of such data/PHI.

      As to whether or not Dossia qualifies as a model for CHR, no, not even close as they have very little in the way of clinical data, which is the gold standard. Believe what Children’s hospital – Boston is doing (Indivo as the go btwn for acute & ambulatory with pt access is much close to the CHR model).

  2. Bill Prenovitz

    At its highest level, the PHR is an information sharing platform between a patient, their family caregivers, and the healthcare professionals (and their organizations) involved in the patients care. As such, most of the attempts to date at PHRs are fragmentary prototypes of what will eventually become the dominent design. A great example of Geoffrey Moore’s theory on crossing the chasm. Its not a surprise that the most successful ones to date are from healthcare organizations; who’s website do you use to manage your bank account?



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