Free EMR Newsletter Want to receive the latest news on EMR, Meaningful Use, ARRA and Healthcare IT sent straight to your email? Join thousands of healthcare pros who subscribe to EMR and EHR for FREE!

E-Patient Update: The Kaiser Permanente Approach To Consumer Health IT

Posted on May 19, 2017 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare consultant and analyst with 20 years of industry experience. Zieger formerly served as editor-in-chief of FierceHealthcare.com and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also contributed content to hundreds of healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. Contact her at @ziegerhealth on Twitter or visit her site at Zieger Healthcare.

Usually, particularly when I have complaints, I don’t name the providers or vendors who serve my healthcare needs, largely because I don’t want to let my personal gripes overshadow my analysis of a particular health IT issue.

That being said, I thought I’d veer from that rule today, as I wanted to share some details on how Kaiser Permanente, my new provider and health plan, supports consumers with health IT functions. Despite having started with Kaiser – in this case the DC metro division – less than a week ago, being an e-patient I’ve had my hands all over its Web – and mobile-based options for patients.

I’m not going to say the system is perfect by any means. There are some blind alleys on the web site, and some problems in integrating clinical information into consumer records, but so far their set-up largely seems thoughtful and well-managed.

Having allegedly spent $4 billion plus on its Epic rollout, it’s hard to imagine how Kaiser could have realized that big a return even several years later, but it seems that the healthcare giant is at least doing many of the right things.

Getting enrolled

My first contact with Kaiser, after signing up with Healthcare.gov, was a piece of snail-mail which provided us with our insurance cards and a summary of our particular coverage. The insurance cards included my health plan ID/medical record number.

To enroll on the core Kaiser site, kp.org, I had to supply the record number, my birth date and a few other basic pieces of information. I also downloaded the KP app, which offers a far-more-elegant interface to the same functions.

Medical appointments

Once logged in, it was easy to choose a primary care doctor and OB/GYN by searching the site and clicking a selection button. If you wished you could review physician profiles and educational history as well as testimonial quotes from patients about that doctor before you chose them.

Having chosen a doctor, booking an appointment with them online was easy.  As with Zocdoc.com, you entered a range of dates for a possible consult, then chose the slot that worked for you. And if you need to cancel one of those appointments, it’s easy to do so online.

Digital communication

I was glad to see that the Kaiser portal allows you to email your doctor directly, something which is less common than you might think. (My last primary care group wouldn’t even put their doctors on the phone.)

Not only that, everyone I’ve talked to at KP so far– three medical appointments, as I was playing catch-up — has stressed that the email function isn’t just for show. My new providers insisted that they do answer email messages, and that I shouldn’t hesitate to write if I have questions or concerns.

Another way KP leverages digital communications is the simple, but effective, device of texting me when my prescriptions are due for a refill. This may not sound like much, but convenience matters! (I can also check med reminders by logging in to a custom KP meds app.)

Data sharing

Given that everyone at Kaiser uses the same Epic EMR, clinicians are of course more aware of what their colleagues are doing than my past gaggle of disconnected specialists. They seem quite serious about reading this history before seeing me, something which past physicians haven’t always done, even if I was previously seen by someone else in their practice.

KP also uses Epic’s Care Everywhere function, which allows them to pull in a limited summary of care from other Epic-based providers. While Care Everywhere has limits, the providers are making use of what they can.

One small wrinkle was that prior to two of my visits, I filled out a questionnaire online and when asked to submit it to my electronic patient record, did so. Nonetheless, I was asked to fill out the same questionnaire again, on paper, when I saw a specialist.

Test results

KP seems to be set up appropriately to share standard test results. However, I’ve already had one test, a mammogram, and in doing so found out that their data sharing infrastructure isn’t quite complete.

After being scanned, I was told that I’d receive my results via snail-mail, in about two weeks. I’m glad that this was a routine screening, rather than a test to investigate something scary, as I would have been pretty upset with this news if I was worried.

My conclusions

I don’t want to romanticize Kaiser’s consumer HIT services. After all, looked at one way, KP is only doing what integrated health systems are supposed to do, and not without at least a few hitches.

Still, at least on first view, on the whole I’m pretty happy with how Kaiser’s interactive functions are deployed, as well the general attitude staff members seem to have about consumer use of HIT tools. Generally speaking, they seem to encourage it, and for someone like me that’s quite welcome.

As I see it, if providers outside of the Kaiser bubble were as married to a shared infrastructure as KP providers are, my care would be much improved. Let’s see if I still if I still feel that way after the new health plan smell has worn off!

A Look At The Role Of EMRs In Personalized Medicine

Posted on January 19, 2017 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare consultant and analyst with 20 years of industry experience. Zieger formerly served as editor-in-chief of FierceHealthcare.com and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also contributed content to hundreds of healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. Contact her at @ziegerhealth on Twitter or visit her site at Zieger Healthcare.

NPR recently published an interesting piece on how some researchers are developing ways to leverage day-to-day medical information as a means of personalizing medical care. This is obviously an important approach – whether or not you take the full-on big data approach drug researchers are – and I found the case studies it cited to be quite interesting.

In one instance cited by the article, researchers at Kaiser Permanente have begun pulling together a dashboard, driven by condition types, which both pulls together past data and provides real-life context.

“Patients are always saying, don’t just give me the averages, tell me what happened to others who look like me and made the same treatment decisions I did,” said Dr. Tracy Lieu, head of Kaiser’s research division, who spoke to NPR. “And tell me not only did they live or die, but tell me what their quality of life was about.”

Dr. Lieu and her fellow researchers can search a database on a term like “pancreatic cancer” and pull up data not only from an individual patient, but also broad information on other patients who were diagnosed with the condition. According to NPR, the search function also lets them sort data by cancer type, stage, patient age and treatment options, which helps researchers like Lieu spot trends and compare outcomes.

Kaiser has also supplemented the traditional clinical data with the results of a nine-question survey, which patients routinely fill out, looking at their perception of their health and emotional status. As the article notes, the ideal situation would be if patients were comfortable filling out longer surveys on a routine basis, but the information Kaiser already collects offers at least some context on how patients reacted to specific treatments, which might help future patients know what to expect from their care.

Another approach cited in the article has been implemented by Geisinger Health System, which is adding genetic data to EMRs. Geisinger has already compiled 50,000 genetic scans, and has set a current goal of 125,000 scans.

According to Dr. David Ledbetter, Geisinger’s chief scientific officer, the project has implications for current patients. “Even though this is primarily a research project, we’re identifying genomic variants that are actually important to people’s health and healthcare today,” he told the broadcaster.

Geisinger is using a form of genetic testing known as exome sequencing, which currently costs a few thousand dollars per patient. But prices for such tests are falling so quickly that they could hit the $300 level this year, which would make it more likely that patients would be willing to pay for their own tests to research their genetic proclivities, which in turn would help enrich databases like Geisinger’s.

“We think as the cost comes down it will be possible to sequence all of the genes of individual patients, store that information in the electronic medical record, and it will guide and individualize and optimize patient care,” Ledbetter told NPR.

As the story points out, we might be getting ahead of ourselves if we all got analyses of our genetic information, as doctors don’t know how to interpret many of the results. But it’s good to see institutions like these getting prepared, and making use of what information they do have in the mean time.

Rival Interoperability Groups Connect To Share Health Data

Posted on December 27, 2016 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare consultant and analyst with 20 years of industry experience. Zieger formerly served as editor-in-chief of FierceHealthcare.com and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also contributed content to hundreds of healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. Contact her at @ziegerhealth on Twitter or visit her site at Zieger Healthcare.

Two formerly competitive health data interoperability groups have agreed to work together to share data with each others’ members. CommonWell Health Alliance, which made waves when it included Cerner but not Epic in its membership, has agreed to share data with Carequality, of which Epic is a part. (Of course, Epic said that it chose not to participate in the former group, but let’s not get off track with inside baseball here!)

Anyway, CommonWell was founded in early 2013 by a group of six health IT vendors (Cerner, McKesson, Allscripts, athenahealth, Greenway Medical Technologies and RelayHealth.) Carequality, for its part, launched in January of this year, with Epic, eClinicalWorks, NextGen Healthcare and Surescripts on board.

Under the terms of the deal, the two will shake hands and play nicely together. The effort will seemingly be assisted by The Sequoia Project, the nonprofit parent under which Carequality operates.

The Sequoia Project brings plenty of experience to the table, as it operates eHealth Exchange, a national health information network. Its members include the AMA, Kaiser Permanente, CVS’s Minute Clinic, Walgreens and Surescripts, while CommonWell is largely vendor-focused.

As things stand, CommonWell runs a health data sharing network allowing for cross-vendor nationwide data exchange. Its services include patient ID management, record location and query/retrieve broker services which enable providers to locate multiple records for patient using a single query.

Carequality, for its part, offers a framework which supports interoperability between health data sharing network and service providers. Its members include payer networks, vendor networks, ACOs, personal health record and consumer services.

Going forward, CommonWell will allow its subscribers to share health information through directed queries with any Carequality participant.  Meanwhile, Carequality will create a version of the CommonWell record locator service and make it available to any of its providers.

Once the record-sharing agreement is fully implemented, it should have wide ranging effects. According to The Sequoia Project, CommonWell and Carequality participants cut across more than 90% of the acute EHR market, and nearly 60% of the ambulatory EHR market. Over 15,000 hospitals clinics and other healthcare providers are actively using the Carequality framework or CommonWell network.

But as with any interoperability project, the devil will be in the details. While cross-group cooperation sounds good, my guess is that it will take quite a while for both groups to roll out production versions of their new data sharing technologies.

It’s hard for me to imagine any scenario in which the two won’t engage in some internecine sniping over how to get this done. After all, people have a psychological investment in their chosen interoperability approach – so I’d be astonished if the two teams don’t have, let’s say, heated discussions over how to resolve their technical differences. After all, it’s human factors like these which always seem to slow other worthy efforts.

Still, on the whole I’d say that if it works, this deal is good for health IT. More cooperation is definitely better than less.

Advice On Winning Attention For Digital Health Solutions

Posted on December 7, 2016 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare consultant and analyst with 20 years of industry experience. Zieger formerly served as editor-in-chief of FierceHealthcare.com and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also contributed content to hundreds of healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. Contact her at @ziegerhealth on Twitter or visit her site at Zieger Healthcare.

Some of you reading this are probably involved with a digital health startup to one degree or another. If so, you’ve probably seen firsthand how difficult it can be to get attention for your solution, no matter how sophisticated it is or how qualified its creators are. In fact, given the fevered pace of digital health’s evolution, you may be facing worse than typical Silicon Valley odds.

That being said, there are strategies for standing out even in this exploding market, according to participants at a recent event dedicated to getting beyond health tech hype. The event, which was written up by health tech startup incubator Rock Health, featured experts from Dignity Health, Humana, Kaiser Permanente and Evidation Health.

Generally speaking, the panelists from these organizations spelled out how health tech startups can make more convincing pitches, largely by providing more robust forms of evidence:

  • They said that standard metrics demonstrating the effectiveness of your solutions — such as randomized trials and evidence-based reviews — probably weren’t enough, as they sometimes don’t translate to real-world results. Instead, what they’d like to see is the product “used under some stress or duress and how it’s received by caregivers, members, patients and their families,” said Dr. Scott Young, who serves as executive director and senior medical director of Kaiser Permanente’s Care Management Institute.
  • They want you to produce “softer feedback” such as stories and testimonials directly from customers and users. “So many solutions claim to do the same thing,” said Karen Lee, innovation and strategic partnerships leader at Humana. “This softer feedback allows us to really get a feel for that experience and whether or not it’s effective.”
  • They expect you to be able to nail down how your product meets their strategic objectives, and can help them achieve the specific outcomes they have in mind. If you can’t do that, though just reach out to someone who can.
  • They want to bear in mind that even if they’re quite interested in what you’re doing, there’s typically a lot of politics to navigate before they can the pilot with your technology, much less implement fully. “Beyond the evidence, a successful pilot, and research, there are some complexities that you have to be patient and working through,” says Lee.
  • Perhaps most importantly, they need to know that you’ve kept the patient in mind. “The patient needs to know how to use [your technology], and should be using it,” said Dr. Manoja Lecamwasam, executive director of intellectual property and strategic innovations at Dignity Health. “You have to first build that foundation – look at it there, and a lot of people want to talk to you.”

At this point, readers, I realize some of you are probably feeling frustrated, as it may seem that many potential digital health adopters have set the bar for adoption very high, even once you’ve proven that your solution works by most conventional methods. Still, it doesn’t hurt to get an idea of how the “other side” thinks.

E-Patient Update: Patient-Doctor Communication Still Needs an Update

Posted on December 2, 2016 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare consultant and analyst with 20 years of industry experience. Zieger formerly served as editor-in-chief of FierceHealthcare.com and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also contributed content to hundreds of healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. Contact her at @ziegerhealth on Twitter or visit her site at Zieger Healthcare.

A few weeks ago, I called my PCP’s after-hours line to address an urgent medical concern. The staff at the answering service took my name, reached out to the doctor on call and when he was ready, connected him to me.

While this procedure was entirely standard, as always I found it a bit offputting, as to me it implies that I can’t be trusted to use the doctor’s cell phone number with some discretion. Don’t get me wrong, part of me understands why the doctors in this practice preferred to preserve their privacy and select when they want to speak to patients. On the other hand, however, it makes me uneasy, as I already have a very superficial relationship with my PCP and this approach doesn’t help.

While this is very much an old-school problem, to me it points to a larger one which has largely gone unnoticed as we plunge forward with the evolution of health IT. In theory, we are living in a far more connected world, one which puts not only family and friends but the professionals we work with on far more of a one-to-one basis with us. In practice, however, I continue to feel that patient-doctor communication has benefited from this far less than one might think.

I know, you’re going to point out to me how many doctors are using portals to email with patients these days, and how some even text back and forth with us. I’ve certainly been lucky enough to benefit from the consideration of providers who have reached out via these channels to solve urgent problems. And I know some health organizations — such as Kaiser Permanente — have promoted a culture in which doctors and patients communicate frequently via its portal.

The thing is, I think Kaiser’s experience is the exception that proves the rule. Yes, my doctors have indeed communicated with me directly via portals or cell. But the email and text messages I’ve gotten from them are typically brief, almost pointillistic, or if longer and more detailed, typically written days or even weeks after the original request on my end. In other words, these communications aren’t a big improvement over what they could accomplish with an old-fashioned phone call – other than being asynchronous communication that doesn’t require we hook up in real-time.

In saying this, I’m not faulting the clinicians themselves. Nobody can communicate with everyone all the time, particularly doctors with a large caseload. And I’m certainly not suggesting that I expect them to be Facebook buddies with me and chat about the weather. But it is worth looking at the way in which these communication technologies have seemingly failed to enrich the communication between patient and doctor in many cases.

Until we develop a communication channel for patients and doctors which offers more of the benefits of real-time communication — while helping doctors manage their time as they see fit — I think much of the potential of physician-patient communication by Internet will be wasted. I’m not sure what the solution is, but I do hope we find one.

Will New Group Steal Thunder From CommonWell Health Alliance?

Posted on January 26, 2016 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare consultant and analyst with 20 years of industry experience. Zieger formerly served as editor-in-chief of FierceHealthcare.com and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also contributed content to hundreds of healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. Contact her at @ziegerhealth on Twitter or visit her site at Zieger Healthcare.

Back in March 0f 2013, six health IT vendors came together to announce the launch of the CommonWell Health Alliance. The group, which included Cerner, McKesson, Allscripts, athenahealth, Greenway Medical Technologies and RelayHealth, said they were forming the not-for-profit organization to foster national health data interoperability. (Being a cynical type, I immediately put it in a mental file tagged “The Group Epic Refused To Join,” but maybe that wasn’t fair since it looks like the other EHR vendors might have left Epic out on purpose.)

Looked at from some perspectives, the initiative has been a success. Over the past couple of years or so, CommonWell developed service specifications for interoperability and deployed a national network for health data sharing. The group has also attracted nearly three dozen HIT companies as members, with capabilities extending well beyond EMRs.

And according to recently-appointed executive director Jitin Asnaani, CommonWell is poised to have more than 5,000 provider sites using its services across the U.S. That will include more than 1,200 of Cerner’s provider sites. Also, Greenway Health and McKesson provider sites should be able to share health data with other CommonWell participants.

While all of this sounds promising, it’s not as though we’ve seen a great leap in interoperability for most providers. This is probably why new interoperability-focused initiatives have emerged. Just last week, five major HIT players announced that they would be the first to implement the Carequality Interoperability Framework.

The five vendors include, notably, Epic, along with athenahealth, eClinicalWorks, NextGen Healthcare and Surescripts. While the Carequality team might not be couching things this way, to me it seems likely that it intends to roll on past (if not over) the CommonWell effort.

Carequality is an initiative of The Sequoia Project, a DC-area non-profit. While it shares CommonWell’s general mission in fostering nationwide health information exchange, that’s where its similarities to CommonWell appear to end:

* Unlike CommonWell, which is almost entirely vendor-focused, Sequoia’s members also include the AMA, Kaiser Permanente, Minute Clinic, Walgreens and Surescripts.

* The Carequality Interoperability Framework includes not only technical specifications for achieving interoperability, but also legal and governance documents helping implementers set up data sharing in legally-appropriate ways between themselves and patients.

* The Framework is designed to allow providers, payers and other health organizations to integrate pre-existing connectivity efforts such as previously-implemented HIEs.

I don’t know whether the Carequality effort is complimentary to CommonWell or an attempt to eclipse it. It’s hard for me to tell whether the presence of a vendor on both membership lists (athenahealth) is an attempt to learn from both sides or a preparation for jumping ship. In other words, I’m not sure whether this is a “game changer,” as one health IT trade pub put it, or just more buzz around interoperability.

But if I were a betting woman, I’d stake hard, cold dollars that Carequality is destined to pick up the torch CommonWell lit. That being said, I do hope the two cooperate or even merge, as I’m sure the very smart people associated with these efforts can learn from each other. If they fight for mindshare, it’d be a major waste of time and talent.

Funny Physician Exam Room EHR Etiquette Video

Posted on July 30, 2012 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

I usually reserve the various EHR videos I find for the Healthcare Scene EHR video website. However, this one was too funny to not share with a wider audience. Here’s the YouTube description for the video:

Meaningful Use of Electronic Health Records (EHRs) involves more than implementing an EHR. It involves interacting with patients and the computer in the exam room in a way that is productive and enhances the interaction between the patient and the physician. Learn about how Reliant Medical Group (formerly known as Fallon Clinic) uses Kaiser Permanente’s LEVEL technique to ensure a successful patient encounter.

While I’ve said that the video is funny, it also does bring out some really important points about physician exam room EHR etiquette. When I first started watching the video I was wondering how they were going to get physicians to actually take the time to watch the video. Then, about half way through I was laughing at the video which made me watch through more of it. I’m not sure if the humor was intentional or not, but I expect those reading this site will get a good laugh at the video embedded below while seeing some important points on EHR etiquette.

Thanks to Carl Bergman for pointing the video out to me.

Could EMRs Make Patient Satisfaction Scores More Meaningful?

Posted on May 3, 2012 I Written By

As Social Marketing Director at Billian, Jennifer Dennard is responsible for the continuing development and implementation of the company's social media strategies for Billian's HealthDATA and Porter Research. She is a regular contributor to a number of healthcare blogs and currently manages social marketing channels for the Health IT Leadership Summit and Technology Association of Georgia’s Health Society. You can find her on Twitter @JennDennard.

A lot has already been written about whether or not EMRs lead – directly or indirectly – to higher patient satisfaction scores, but I’ve yet to find anything on those scores being included in the patient’s record itself. The idea occurred to me this past weekend, as I was on the phone with a survey firm asking patient satisfaction questions on behalf of Kaiser Permanente.

The visit in question was routine and had gone well, so my ratings were high, and the call was quick. Would the doctor who had been involved ever see my direct responses? Do doctors see these scores in aggregate, or can they look them up by individual patient? Would they feel themselves more accountable if they could see how a patient rated their last encounter while looking at that person’ EMR?

I supposed it could go either way. A healthy, highly satisfied patient’s record would display high scores and vice versa. That person’s doctor could look at these scores before the next encounter to see what could be improved upon, what to keep doing, or what to start doing with other patients of a similar condition. I wonder  if the ability to view a particular patient’s satisfaction scores wouldn’t somehow make the doctor feel even more accountable for their patient’s health – if they’d have more “skin in the game,” so to speak.

Perhaps it could have a negative effect. Low satisfaction scores could lead to an emotionally charged appointment if a doctor doesn’t fully understand why the scores were given.

After my phone call, I did wonder if other health systems send out patient satisfaction surveys electronically, making them accessible via an email or a patient’s portal. The ability to respond digitally would seem to also enable the ability to make personal comments on the scores – something I was not given the option to do on the phone call. I’ve filled out paper satisfaction surveys from other providers, but don’t recall comment boxes being included. Come to think of it, I filled out the paper survey mainly because the hospital told me I had the chance to win a prize if I did so. I wish my phone survey had offered that incentive!

Patient satisfaction scores are important, of course, especially in this day and age of accountable care. I just wonder if they’re not being given enough transparency by hospital management. If doctors could see the good and the bad on a microscopic rather than macroscopic level, would they strive to produce better outcomes?

Let me know what you’ve heard or seen lately in the comments below.

Just What the Doctor Ordered: Mobile Access to Your Kaiser EHR

Posted on January 26, 2012 I Written By

As Social Marketing Director at Billian, Jennifer Dennard is responsible for the continuing development and implementation of the company's social media strategies for Billian's HealthDATA and Porter Research. She is a regular contributor to a number of healthcare blogs and currently manages social marketing channels for the Health IT Leadership Summit and Technology Association of Georgia’s Health Society. You can find her on Twitter @JennDennard.

Recent news that Kaiser Permanente has made its patients’ electronic health records available via mobile devices comes as no surprise. Kaiser often seems to be at the forefront of interoperability and coordinated care, in large part due to its integrated nature and sheer volume of patients. As the company’s press release mentions, it maintains the “largest electronic medical records system in the world.” Now, 9 million of its patients can view their EHRs via a mobile site or Android app, with an iPhone app expected to launch in the near future.

On a macro level, I think this is a great step towards further empowering patients to take control of their health. By giving 9 million folks instant access to their own health information, I’d like to think that this will in turn prompt their friends and relations to ask, “Why doesn’t my doctor do that? What benefits am I missing out on?” And perhaps these same folks will then have a conversation with their provider about adopting this type of mobile access.

I’d be interested to see six months to a year from now, statistics comparing use of the mobile app/site to use of the tools found on the traditional website. Will Kaiser see a tremendous increase in the amount of emails between doctors and patients via its mobile apps? Are its doctors prepared for the potential onslaught of correspondence? I wonder if a few have balked at the possibility of being overrun by emails from particularly communicative patients.

Will they be able to tie these usage statistics to a jump in quality outcomes? Will mobile access ultimately become a criteria measured within accountable care models or patient-centered medical homes? Will mobile health truly equal better health?

On a micro level, I would certainly appreciate the effectiveness of access like this, which includes the ability to view lab results, diagnostic information, order prescription refills and the aforementioned email access to doctors. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been on the phone with a pediatric advice nurse and drawn a blank when asked what my child’s current weight might be. It would be nice to be able to quickly pull that data up on my cell phone, especially while we’re on the go or out of town. I could eventually see patient charting apps being layered on top of this, so that in the event of a high, overnight fever, I could log temperatures via the mobile app and review them with our pediatrician – possibly alerted every time a new temp or symptom is entered – the next morning.

The possibilities seem endless. I think the big goal for Kaiser now is to get folks engaged and using these new access points.

What Should We Make of Google Health’s Failure?

Posted on June 26, 2011 I Written By

Katherine Rourke is a healthcare journalist who has written about the industry for 30 years. Her work has appeared in all of the leading healthcare industry publications, and she's served as editor in chief of several healthcare B2B sites.

So, Google Health’s slow collapse — akin to a tire with a slow but obvious leak — has finally come to an end. This week, Google officially ended the project, one of the pioneering efforts in the Personal Health Records space. While GH will stumble along through January 1, 2012, the jig is finally up.

Why did a high-visibility project backed by one of the world’s premier Internet companies fail so miserably? Well, according to former Google employee Adam Bosworth, who first launched GH, the effort failed because “it’s not social,” TechCrunch reports.  Another pundit, more convincingly, argued that unless PHRs are tied to reimbursement somehow, they’ll be “irrelevant” for most providers.

So, why should we care about the failure of a project that, I’d argue, was pretty much pie in the sky from day one? And more importantly, is the failure of GH relevant to people who care about the future of EMRs?

Well, for one thing, Google Health does offer some pretty interesting insights into what doesn’t work in the world of patient-centered clinical data. As I see it, they include the following:

*  Clinical data projects that aren’t interoperable are eventually going to wither away.

I think it’s telling that Google is, at the last possible moment, rolling out the ability for patients to transfer health data to other services supporting the Direct Project protocol.  Also notable is that Google is offering patients the option of downloading data that meets the Continuity of Care Record format. (That’s ASTM E2369 – 05e1 to any standards geeks out there.)

Does that imply that EMRs that don’t share data are going to be outmoded or a waste of time?  Certainly not, as EMRs can potentially solve many in-house problems that providers face, and serve a far more expansive purpose. That being said, the failure of siloed PHRs should be a warning.

* Without a live, fluid source of data, PHRs don’t matter.

In this cynic’s mind, the idea that patients would suddenly begin to post data to PHRs on their own was, to put it simply, pretty dumb.  Why would they?  Consumers seldom think about their health data unless they’re at a doctor’s office, if at all, and they don’t exactly know what do do with the data once they’ve compiled it.

Since day one of the PHR craze, I’ve been wondering who thought they’d change patient behavior en masse by dangling a technology carrot. What were they thinking? I’m not just slamming Google, I’m targeting pretty much any PHR that isn’t linked to an EMR or other clinical data source directly. (I’m talking about you, HealthVault, and probably Dossia too.)

* PHRs must be run by a trusted intermediary, and marketed vigorously to patients, before patients will take heed.

I think it’s no coincidence that while Google’s PHR, and possibly Microsoft’s, haven’t won over many consumers, patients are beginning to pay a bit more attention to PHRs provided by providers and health insurers.  (OK, I don’t have hard data on this, just a strong gut feeling — can any of you provide stats that support or contradict this assumption?)

A case in point: While they’ve arguably spent way, way too much to get there, Kaiser Permanente has built what may be the largest PHR user-base in the world — 3 million users as of spring 2010 — linked to KP’s big Epic installation.  True, Kaiser had to spend millions in advertising and other forms of outreach to get patients on board, but what’s telling is that patients seem to have stayed once they arrived.

So, I’m just wondering when the managers behind HealthVault will throw in the towel. Hey, MS, just turn out the light when you leave, OK?