Quest Diagnostics app may herald breakthrough for consumer health information

As you likely know by now, I've been one of the most skeptical of skeptics when it comes to hype surrounding personal health records. But if the Quest Diagnostics PR machine is to be believed, we may be on the cusp of a true breakthrough for consumer health information and, by extension, personal health records.

Last week, the medical diagnostics company introduced Gazelle, an app for iPhone and BlackBerry--and soon for Android--that provides secure, mobile access to results of tests performed in Quest laboratories. According to the press release, users can share results via email and fax with their own doctors. And if they so choose, users can enter and manage other health information with the app. (This PHR skeptic says they won't.)

What's not said in the press release, but is contained in an email, is a larger, ahem, quest by Quest. "With the release of this app, Quest Diagnostics is also planting a flag in the ground on the issue of patient data rights. Currently, only 33 states allow patients to receive their health records and lab results directly, and Quest Diagnostics believes that access should be universal," reads the message.

This sounds like the state of e-prescribing a decade ago, when about 10 states still prohibited the filling of prescriptions without a written signature from a licensed prescriber. Then the e-prescribing industry stepped up its lobbying and got the holdouts to update their laws. Though it's now legal in all 50 states, e-prescribing has seen slow but steady uptake by doctors.

Mobile conveyance of lab results could follow a similar arc, with one difference: consumers. As patients learn about the availability of apps like Quest's, I expect demand to grow much more rapidly.

Shifting gears, FierceMobileHealthcare has just released an e-book, "Connected Health: Harnessing Telemedicine to Facilitate Remote Diagnosis and Consultation," a collaborative effort among myself and other FierceMobileHealthcare contributors. Download it here.

And if you're going to Washington next week for the mHealth Summit, don't forget to register for "Telemedicine Success: Opportunities for Seamless Care, Reduced Costs and Broader Access," our executive breakfast on Tuesday, Nov. 9. I hope to see you there. - Neil