In search of the truth

Remember my Editor's Corner from Oct. 6, when I took a swipe at breathless hype surrounding portable personal health records and other health 2.0 technologies that haven't found a workable business model? Scottsdale, Ariz.-based Allviant sure does. That's because I criticized the company for a hyperbole-filled press release it issued in advance of the Health 2.0 Conference that week.

Funny, but that didn't sit well with Allviant, a spin-off of healthcare connectivity company Medicity. Company co-founder and CEO Lilian Myers posted a comment on this site saying that the new product, CarePass, is anything but a PHR, and that she shared my sentiments about the PHRs she's seen in the marketplace so far. Myers got me on the phone a couple of days later.

"It's so far from a PHR, it would make your head spin," she said. Myers described CarePass as a technology-enabled service that acts as a "fast pass through healthcare" on the administrative side, pulling together insurance benefit, co-pay and deductible information while also linking to health savings account balances when applicable. It's a service generally paid for by employers or health plan sponsors.

"It's the inverse of CRM," Myers said. "You don't have time to go check what's a covered benefit, so we do it for you," using data points specified by the enrollee. Users can opt in or out of alerts meant to encourage preventive care. For example, according to Myers, employers can schedule wellness fairs and send email, text or voice reminders to those interested in health screenings. The CarePass puts these reminders into a calendar feed that also includes personal doctor's appointments and other health-related events.

The key differentiation between CarePass and a PHR seems to be the fact that it doesn't handle clinical data. While CarePass can collect information from labs, it doesn't store results. Instead, the system sends a message to the user that a test result has been delivered to the ordering physician. Is it a breakthrough? Maybe. Myers said it's certainly a lot less expensive than an insurer portal. "Payers spend millions for portals that people don't go to," she said.

There's a lesson here for payers that portable and mobile is better than web-based, which is, you know, so 20th century. And there's a lesson here for me as well: Don't jump to conclusions. On the other hand, it was a good way to land an interview. Nah, I'll stick to commenting on things I actually understand. - Neil