Vendors keep pushing phone-based PHRs, but do patients care?

Attendees at the Toward an Electronic Patient Record (TEPR) conference in May 2008 were told that some 10 million Americans would be storing and controlling personal health records on mobile phones by the time the next TEPR rolled around in February 2009. Well, that didn't happen. In fact, the 2009 edition was the 25th and final TEPR; the sponsoring organization--the Medical Records Institute--disbanded and morphed into, interestingly enough, the mHealth Initiative.

Yes, PHR usage is minimal; approximately 3 percent of Americans actually use one, according to Forrester Research. But that hasn't discouraged numerous companies from developing PHRs, particularly for mobile phones. The smart ones are targeting their products to patients with chronic conditions.

"The basic idea is to help users change their behavior with more transparency and information," Michael Yuan, CEO of Austin, Texas-based Ringful, developer of a PHR app for smartphones, tells the Wall Street Journal.

"The ability to deliver timely information to that phone and individual has an enormous potential to modify behavior and improve wellness," adds Daniel Lewis, senior VP of AllOne Health Group, Wilkes-Barre, Pa., the company featured in a demo at TEPR 2008. AllOne provides mobile access for the few people using payer-generated PHRs or Microsoft HealthVault.

"I think the use of a mobile device to share and store your health information has enormous potential," agrees WebMD CEO Wayne Gattinella. WebMD's PHR predates the much-hyped HealthVault and Google Health platforms, but it hasn't received the same attention. At least Gattinella is realistic, characterizing current mobile PHRs as an interim step on the road to full interoperability with electronic medical records.

To learn more about phone-based PHRs:
- read this Wall Street Journal feature