I have been ranting for several years about the need to provide a link between existing electronic health information systems and personal health record applications. Seems that this issue has hit the attention of the media:
What’s it gonna take to give people electronic copies of their health information so they can populate their own personal health applications, much as the banks already do with applications like Quicken or Microsoft Money? As I have said many times before, it is MY data, damn it, and I should be able to use it in any way that I see fit.
I’ve been reading some of the posts from Mike about HIMSS, which lead me to review some of the positive buzz happening in the US. This in turns had me thinking about the differences between the Canadian and US markets, especially in the Personal Health Records (PHR) space.
Mike can attest to my long standing skepticism about the business model for PHRs in the Canadian market :-). PHRs are being pioneered in the US market for a variety of reasons; not least of which, I believe, is the greater role the patient plays in picking and choosing healthcare options. In Canada it seems that patients have less leverage. All that being said, I believe in the concept of a PHR. You as a consumer own your health record, and should have control over that information. The hard part for many Canadians is figuring out what half of the healthcare data actually means.
If you look at a classic market adoption chart, I would argue that the Canadian PHR market is at the starting/early adopter phase right now. There are several different options and business models being tried out; with the largest effort to date coming from TELUS and MSFT. I remember watching Dave Pattenden from MSFT engaging with the market (with Healthvault) a couple of years ago. He took a lot of heat from the powers that be, but in my opinion delivered the right message to the key decision makers. All of which brings me to the point of this post, where the heck is Google in the Canadian PHR market?
I see all kinds of Google Health announcements out of the US, the latest being the addition of Surescripts as a partner. What is surprising to me is not their lack of visible presence in Canada, its their complete lack of marketing or even engagement with stakeholders. Perhaps they simply have no interest in the Canadian market, because if they did they are falling rapidly behind their key competitors.
Canadian consumers view healthcare a little differently
Although I did not attend HIMSS in person this year I have been actively following the event on twitter, blogs, and various video sites. Based on what I have read and heard, I think that the following summary of the key themes emerging from HIMSS neatly sums things up:
Dr. Halamka is highly respected in the US healthcare IT and medical community. He plays an active role in the meaningful use debate as Chair of the US Healthcare Information Technology Standards Panel (HITSP). Of particular note in Dr. Halamka’s summar:
- “Cloud computing, Software as a Service and ASP models are popular tactics to accelerate EHR rollouts”
- “Self service kiosks for patient identification and self-registration are now mainstream. Just as we print our airline boarding passes, we can now use credit cards or biometrics to check into ambulatory care appointments and automatically settle all co-pay balances.”
- “PHRs and patient engagement are becoming more mainstream. Google and Microsoft continue to innovate in the non-tethered PHR marketplace.”
Based on what I read and heard, there was quite the buzz at HIMSS this year. I only wish that we could generate the same level of enthusiasm for healthcare IT (see, I’m saying eHealth less and less) in Canada. *sigh*
GE Healthcare, a major player in the medical imaging and clinical information systems market, recently announced a partnership with Intel to develop home healthcare products. (see http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601103&sid=aCbAm07nbwHs&refer=us for details). According to the Bloomberg article, “the home health-care market is forecast to outpace growth in the hopital buisness” and cited slow growth in the U.S. imaging equipment market as one reason for GE’s move.
GE’s decision to partner with Intel comes on the heels of IBM’s announcement that is working with Google Health to explore how to get data from home monitoring equipment into Google Health. Clearly, with this much investment by large players, there is growth in the home healthcare and related Consumer eHealth markets. As the growth in the more traditional hospital markets slows, major players will turn their attention to growth markets such as EMRs (on the order of 80% of North American physicians don’t have an EMR in their office) and consumer eHealth.
In the summer of 2007 I interviewed a cancer patient who was using Grand River’s oncology portal (My CARE Source) for an article in Healthcare Information and Communications Canada magazine. My goal was to get a users view of the value of this service. Having survived Hodgkin’s disease as a teenager, the person who I interviewed was able to compare what it was like to battle cancer with and without the help of a computer-based tool. I was reminded of this interview when I read the following blog post about a new feature of Google Health that facilitates the sharing of personal health information:
Although the person I interviewed did not use the phrase “Personal Health Record” (PHR) during our conversation, she did offer a perspective echoed by many PHR supporters. She emphatically stated several times during our conversation that she felt very strongly that “they [her medical records] are my records and I feel that I should be able to have immediate access to them when I want.” Further, she asserted that she should be able to offer access to these records to whoever might be involved in any aspect of her care.
The blog post to which I refer above suggests that “the big next phase is people offering to share these records with their physicians. We’ll see but this may well be the killer app the PHR has been looking for—after all now a doctor just needs one Google sign-in which they almost certainly have anyway, and they can see all the Google Health PHRs of the patients who start sharing their records with them. And they will. This has the potential to be really disruptive.” What do you think of this perspective? Do you think that we will see physicians and patients electronically sharing health information?