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To PHR or not to PHR

According to the statistics, only about 7 percent of the US population uses a Personal Health Record (PHR). The low adoption tells us that levels of patient empowerment and engagement are low, there is a lack of education about PHRs, and a lack of communication with the end-user about the benefits of using such a tool.

But let’s face it; we all live in a digital world, broadband connections are streaming across nations around the world, the level of penetration of smart phones is so high that predictions are for 1.4 billion smart phones by 2015 (that’s almost 1/3 of the world’s population!). We all read news, most of us use the internet, we are connecting with our friends through Facebook, we Twit, Digg, shop online, etc. Word of mouth is so powerful because we use these apps and tools if something new and exciting appears on the market – we definitely will twit about or ‘like’ it on Facebook, or tell our friends over the phone.

What this means for PHR vendors is that probably their products do not carry that required level of excitement and/or utility (whether usability, design, features, visible benefits, or some perks from usage) for ‘early adopters’ to start spreading the word about the product because they LOVE it. In the case of PHRs – chronic patients should be ideal early adopters. These patients are the ones who should embrace PHRs to make their life easier by executing daily health management and monitoring, better communication with care providers, storage of health data, etc. However, PHRs are not yet used extensively by these groups so obviously there is a problem with current PHRs.

Seems to me people do not need just another PHR, but more than that; a collaborative care tool, wellness, networking, goals, rewards, health and medication info, ease of use, beneficial features, privacy, lab tests and results automatically downloaded. Users are clever when it comes to adopting technology that helps them with some aspect of their life. if something adds value to daily routines — they will jump on the product!

And what’s the bet that we don’t end up calling it a “PHR” in the end…

Yours in health,

Hamish

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