Wellpoint is going to roll out the WebMD PHR based system which has been working at Empire Blues (Wellchoice) for about a year to the rest of its plans to the rest of its plans. So theoretically up to 34 million people will have access to a PHR. I wrote about the WebMD solution before, so I won’t go into it much, but there are two quick points beyond the fact that (at last!) PHRs have the opportunity to go mainstream.
1) This is a vindication of the ASP model—these records live on WebMD’s servers rather than on Wellpoint’s. I never thought that the big insurers would allow another company to take their consumers’ data for fear that they would also take their consumers as well. That was certainly a concern of the plans that we were trying to sell PHRs to at i-Beacon which was why we sold enterprise software rather than an ASP service. WellMed (the company who’s PHR is the core of WebMD’s current service) was always an ASP model. And the answer is, the lowered costs of the ASP model outweigh the fear that WebMD will make it easy for another plan to assume the members data. One WebMD insider told me that they will be introducing a way to move data between plans. So the member will find “data lock” is NOT a reason to avoid moving plans, and technically they may not even have to take it off the server, assuming that WebMD is the back end for both plans. And of course potentially WebMD can start offering other health plan services and even start competing with its clients. But that’s another story.
2) Just as the private sector starts to sort this out with providers using Epic’s MyHealth to give access to the records, and WebMD starting to make real strides, CMS is starting experimentation, and Foundations are getting into the mix too with grants to help figure out what applications are needed. Are they not a bit late to the party?
And finally—it’s about bloody time!!