CareZone –1999 PHR Redux?

In 1999 PersonalMD & HealthCompass were some of the new personal health records (PHRs) where you could store health data and share it with others who needed to see it. They were basically vaults, they rarely even had data linked to a drug or condition database–just plain text, and they couldn’t get data out of larger systems. And they were not successful.

Later PHRs tried to overcome these problems by making it easier to import data from other systems (think geting your drug data from Walgreens) and linking to other reference databases (so that when you enter a drug name the right spelling comes up and it can tell you about interactions, etc.).

There was (and still is) the problem of how to get paper documents into the record. MyMedicalRecords.com allows you to fax in paper records to make PDFs, and has burned through some $30m in 5 years (and I was pretty cynical about them from the start). Of course even getting much of this right didn’t help many early PHRs like WellMed which went through some $40m before being sold to WebMD for $20m and iMetrikus (now Numera) which spent some $75m (est) of Chiron Founder William Rutter’s money before completely changing models.

CareZone is the product of ex-Sun CEO Jonathan Schwartz’s last two years since the fire-sale to Oracle. It was introduced to an adoring bunch of journalists yesterday including Techcrunch’s Eric Eldon, Robert Scoble, and Xconomy’s Wade Roush. All of them continue to confirm to me that they don’t much understand this market and they fawn over former techies who think that they’ve discovered health care nirvana. I really cannot see what the fuss is about. They’re all fascinated by the fact that this doesn’t link to Facebook and somehow keeping instructions to take Johnny to the doctor off the Twitter feed is a huge advance. But none of them see the really basic flaws in CareZone or seem to have any history of what’s happened in this market before.

Given that I make my living promoting new health technology companies, it pains me to have to poke holes, but as far as I can see CareZone–which is marketed as a site that allows a small group of caregivers to manage their family’s care–is basically a 1999 PHR mixed with a to-do list, much like RallyRound (from the UK) or LottsaHelpingHands.

Worse, those advances of recent PHRs–including importing conditions, documents, medical records, drug lists, from other systems–are absent.

Sure you can upload a PDF of a living will to CareZone–but you could do that on Google Health. And on Google Health you could also automatically import your drugs from Walgreens & CVS, as you can on HealthVault. On CareZone you have to type them in as text–there’s not even a drug database to link to behind the scenes to make sure you spelled it right. I literally typed in “Bullshit” and it’s now one of my daughter’s medications! (Click on the picture above) Even MotherKnows has a process to get your kids’ records in from the doctor. And what about the ability to bring in a BlueButton file, now available to millions of Veterans and seniors? RelayHealth and many others now allow that. Not on Carezone.

Sure, Carezone adds a to-do list and a Facebook style comment feed to communicate with other caregivers, but Dossia has that and lots lots more. And it’s simple for other records companies to add those Facebook/Basecamp features that the tech journos are so excited about–but harder for CareZone to build the links that will make this a useful service.

And did I mention that almost all those services, most of which weren’t successful, were free and CareZone wants over $150 a year?

Maybe there’s something more there to this. Who knows?  It may be a matter of timing. After all Yelp was more or less Epinions redux but people were used to commenting Web 2.0 style in 2005, not in 2000. Maybe a to-do list and a calendar are all caregivers want, even if Google provides them for free. But CareZone will have to react very quickly to add ease of use features and connectivity to other data sources.

And I really hope I’m wrong. Caregivers need all the help they can get, and there is by no means a dominant service in the “support the caregiver information process” space yet. But I fear this is one more example of another techie lost in healthcareland.

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5 replies »

  1. Thanks , I’ve just been searching for information about this subject for ages
    and yours is the best I have found out till now.
    But, what about the conclusion? Are you certain about
    the source?

  2. Looks like Mr. Schwartz may be guilty of “trade mark infringement” ??

    The name “CareZone” and CareZoneUSA is property of a known, leading Medical Doctor in Florida, who first developed the name and walk-in clinics in the 1990s !

    I know the doctor very very well.

    Stay tuned…something seems wrong here !!

  3. I took a look at CareZone and signed up for me and my brothers. It’s not the most sophisticated PHR, but I don’t need a PHR, I need a tool to get me organized and help me coordinate.

    I have to be honest, this fit the bill. It’s early, sure, but these are pretty experienced folks who look like they just shipped a minimal viable product. and got some outstanding press.

  4. Thanks for the insights, Matthew. As a former long-time caregiver (of my late husband who was in treatment for cancer for twelve years during his 20s-30s), I am ever on the lookout and hopeful for efficient, novel caregiver solutions and specifically PHRs. The life of a caregiver does not allow for time consuming, useless repetition of manually entered data, especially considering our increasingly electronic environment. I agree that it would behoove the techies in healthcareland to take more heed. Avado was the most recent one I had high hopes for but am, thusfar, unimpressed. PHR solutions I can advocate for in my community are a focus for me and I look forward to your continued expert commentary.

  5. I agree with your assessment of CareZone. There are a lot of other sites out there doing the same thing and more for free.

    eCareDiary.com offers a more robust tool and has multimedia caregiver content, advanced directives for all 50 states, a care search engine and a caregiver supply portal. And this is all available for free.

    Similarly, LotsaHelpingHands.com is only a tool but allows you to do far more than CareZone and it is also free.

    A number of other caregiving tool sites have started out charging for these services including CareRunner.com and RememberItNow.com and had to abandon the model because people were unwilling to pay for it. We’ll see if CareZone has a different experience but having been in the tool I am not sure why they would. There really isn’t much special there.