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The Problem with PHRs

by John Moore | January 23, 2008

In conducting research for the upcoming study on the personal health record (PHR) market, I have had the opportunity to view and demo many a PHR solution. There is an exceedingly wide range of solutions with an equally wide range of capabilities and services now available. Unfortunately, far too many PHR solutions are embarrassingly simplistic and even some of the more prominent solutions are nothing more than a re-purposed physician’s electronic medical record (EMR) rather than a dynamic, interactive environment that actively promotes good health practices, i.e., something a consumer will want to use, versus something that makes physician’s life easier.
Welcomed change is coming though as young, innovative PHR companies enter the market and some encumbents aggressively build-out their platforms. Such examples include:
  • Protocol Driven Healthcare Inc. who is leveraging their strong health risk assessment capabilities and analytics engine to assist users in taking a proactive approach to improving their health.
  • VitalChart, a young PHR company founded last year with plans to combine social networking (e.g., communities) with PHR capabilities.
  • PatientsLikeMe who is providing very rich, specific chronic disease templates and communities, though they are empathic in stating they are not a PHR, but I differ in their opinion.
  • FollowMe has taken their base platform and is re-purposing it to serve distinct communities including those with diseases (PHRs for diabetes and hydrocephalus) and their most successful PHR offering, Mi-VIA which serves migrant workers and their providers.
  • Several PHR vendors are incorporating physician search and ratings services via partnerships with such companies as HealthGrades.
  • And there is a growing and almost universal trend across PHR vendors to replicate WebMD’s model of providing rich content via partnerships with such content providers such as the Mayo Clinic and HealthDays among others.


I am not arguing that we throw out the base functionality that all PHRs, regardless of vendor should have: A common template based on the CCR standard that any physician will readily recognize. What is needed, however, for broader adoption of PHRs across the consumer continuum, is a far richer and engaging experience. Several PHR vendors recognize this and are taking action. Those that do not will experience declining use, enrollment and revenues. These companies, if they wish to remain viable in this rapidly changing market, need to aggressively pursue a partnership strategy for the market is simply moving too fast today for them to build it on their own.

For slightly different perspective:

Over on one of the healthcare IT industry’s most popular Blogs, HIStalk, frequent commenter “Art” provides some interesting commentary today on the rapidly evolving nature of PHRs and healthcare-centric social media tools used by consumers. His commentary particularly focuses on what all of this may mean to healthcare providers and other traditional stakeholders in this sector.

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