Personal health record service shut down

Experts say Revolution Health's decision to discontinue its product indicates larger problems with the concept of third-party medical records -- patients' lack of enthusiasm.

By — Posted Feb. 18, 2010

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Revolution Health, the online consumer health venture launched in 2005 by AOL co-founder Steve Case, shut down its personal health record system in February, citing underutilization as the cause.

Industry insiders say Revolution joins a long list of vendors who launched PHRs with a big splash, only to find little interest from consumers.

"The market was essentially sending us a message that this was not a product that was essential in terms of health management, at least for the audience we were reaching out to," said Marjorie Martin, general manager of Everyday Health, the company that bought Revolution's consumer products a year ago. "Given the utilization, it made more sense to sunset it." Martin said she could not say how many consumers had created a PHR on Revolution's site.

Ann Geyer, managing director of the Tunitas Group, a health information technology consultancy in Mountain Ranch, Calif., said she was not surprised at Revolution's announcement. Geyer said she had found third-party PHRs falling short on their promise to bring value to those who use them.

"You can ask yourself, is there a big enough consumer market for these PHR systems to start with, and I think one is hard-pressed to put their finger on what the size of that market is -- the 'real' market, if you take the hype away," she said.

Patients who feel motivated to use a PHR want to use a system provided by their physicians, not one provided by a third party that a physician may not trust, Geyer said. The most successful PHR-type systems have been created by health care organizations and have benefits to patients, he added, such as e-mailing with physicians, online appointment scheduling and the ability to look at information entered by their physicians.

That Revolution's decision occurred around the same time as Everyday Health's recent filing for an initial public offering of stock was "purely coincidental," Martin said. Everyday, which until January went by the name Waterfront Media, owns 25 online health sites. It filed paperwork with the SEC to raise $100 million in an initial public offering. Rival WebMD raised $90 million in its own IPO in September 2005.

Martin said the company still believes Revolution is a strong brand, and it plans to add products and services that will build on it once the company goes public.

Users of the PHR were notified by e-mail that the service was being discontinued and that all records would be erased at the end of February. The product will be kept "in a wrapper" to be rolled out again, if needed, according to Martin.

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