"There's a pretty sizable group of consumers who are going online and using Web 2.0 tools to not quite manage their own health but at least to communicate with others," according to Matthew Holt, co-founder of the Health 2.0 event and author of The Health Care Blog. "(Companies) are trying to make a connection between the data that exists in various places in the health care system and those consumers (who) want to be proactive in their health."
Microsoft and Google, in addition to WebMD and Revolution Health, have tools for building a personal health record. Dossia is working directly with employers to offer health record options to workers. And ActiveHealth Management has a tool for personal health records available to employers, health plans, and consumers alike. Meanwhile, some providers, such as Kaiser Permanente, also offer their own health records. Following are some of the better options for tracking one's health online.
Google Health is a Web-based tool for personal health records that lets individuals keep their own medical information and grab data from a variety of partners, including laboratory giant Quest Diagnostics and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts. It also has deals with a number of pharmacies, including CVS, Walgreens, and Longs Drugs, as well as drug benefit managers such as Medco.
Dossia, a nonprofit established by a collection of large employers, including Intel, AT&T, Wal-Mart Stores, and Applied Materials, has created a tool for personal health records that companies can offer to employees. Each individual decides who can see his record and how much access is provided.
Shown here is a beta test of an upcoming version of the software. Since September, Wal-Mart has deployed Dossia's tool to thousands of its workers.
Microsoft's HealthVault is designed to power any number of personal health records from partners or from Microsoft's own HealthVault Web site. The technology is being used by NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital, for instance, to power a service for its patients. Other partners include the Mayo Clinic, the American Heart Association, and a number of medical device makers.
MedFlash takes the idea of a portable health record one step further, putting all that information on a USB flash drive that one can pocket.
Of note, the $35 gadget works with Windows 98 or later; the software for entering health data is not Mac-compatible. The data file, however, is in a plain-text format that can be accessed without special software.
ActiveHealth Management works with employers and health plans to offer its ActivePHR tool for personal health records, which is also available directly to consumers. Catering to both English and Spanish speakers, it is designed to help users track health goals and doctor appointments, as well as store health documents.