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TECHNOLOGY: Very short memories in the PHR space

REDMedic is a start-up building a personal health record prodcut aimed directly at end-user consumers. Their wrinkle in the space is that people can take a key-fob or card with them so that if they get into an accident an emergency room nurse can look up their information online via an emergency log-in screen. (Full disclosure: I discussed a possible consulting role with REDMedic a year or so ago but never did anything with them). Nothing wrong with this idea. I thought it was pretty good when i-Beacon (my company) did it in 2000. Dr Koop thought they had it down when they did it in 1998, and Medicalogic had the same conclusion in 1999 with their PHR. Of course the same was true for PersonalMD, HealthAtoZ, iMetrikus and about 35 other companies, including WellMed which survived and is now part of WebMD. Note that they survived and everyone else didn’t. Which may give you a hint about what I told REDMedic were the dangers in their business model.

I have no problem with REDMedic claiming this is a revolutionary idea (although it isn’t as PersonalMD had exactly the same ER room access to the web/fax “emergency card” in 1999)–after all every start up should blow its own horn. What slightly annoys me is that they’ve convinced a not very worldly journalist at Information Week of the same thing in an article called Digital Health Records Move Closer To Reality. Come on team, 2000 wasn’t that long ago. Surely someone apart from me remembers it?

I genuinely hope that REDMedic’s service aimed at consumers takes off, though at $36 a year and no one using PHRs, they are at the very bottom end of the “S” curve adoption, and likely to stay there for some time. Recasting their service as a web-based Medicalert bracelet may even work, as people are more web savvy than they were a few years back. But the same issues that stopped the other 35 companies from having success–such as the unwillingness of providers to get data from their systems into the PHR, and health plans deciding that they didn’t have to improve their web service to their consumers in order to keep them as members–have not gone away to any appreciable extent. However, the online PHR, like online banking, is one of those things that will take off at some point, and whoever is alive and kicking in the space then may make out well.

Meanwhile, if you want to get into this business easily, there’s some very nifty software sitting in a box in San Francisco that I could get into your hands cheap!

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