Most personal health record offerings are not ready for prime time, says Marjorie Martin, general manager for Everyday Health, the parent company of Revolution Health. For consumers, the experience can be laborious and frustrating, she said.
Martin explained Wednesday why Revolution Health was retiring its PHR offering on its Web site. In an e-mail to users on Wednesday Revolution Health said it would discontinue the PHR offering on Feb. 10 and destroy the records. The company advised users to download their records in a PDF format for future reference.
Martin attributed the decision to retire the platform to "low utilization."
PHRs are not catching on with consumers as quickly as anticipated by some companies, she said, in part because of habit and in part because they are not always easy to use.
"Most users still rely on their physicians to do the record-keeping," Martin said. "They don't feel the need to make a change. Also, it's still a fairly laborious experience."
She should know. Part of her job is to try all the PHR offerings there are - to go through the process of registering.
She recalls one experience in which she thought she was done after 30 minutes then realized she had about two more hours of work to do before completion. "And I'm a more of a determined user than most," she said.
There are a few pockets of PHR success, she said. Cleveland Clinic is one of them. Cleveland Clinic teamed up with Google Health in 2008 to launch a PHR pilot. In Martin's view, ease of use, secure data, patient control and physician involvement will be critical to successful PHRs.
"We need a more universal system," she said.
Martin said there were hundreds of users of the Revolution Health platform when there should have been thousands or tens of thousands. Popular products, like Revolution Health's "Symptom Checker" draw a thousand users an hour, she said.
Martin called the Revolution Health PHR "before its time." She speculates it might not have been adequately user-tested perhaps because of the eagerness of developers to go live. It's also an issue of consumers being ready and willing to control their own information, she said, and for physicians to be part of the equation.
Martin said the company would "retain the product behind the wall. We certainly don't want to scrap it," she said.
She added that taking the PHR offering down for now does not signify a lesser commitment to Revolution Health.
"We still very much believe in the brand," she said. The site itself is a very high quality site."
Washington, D.C.-based Revolution Health, an online health information company founded by AOL co-founder Steve Case in 2007, merged with Waterfront Media (which later changed its name to Everyday Health) in October 2008.
The Everyday Health network claims more than 20 million unique users and serves as the market leader in audience reach for at least 23 health conditions. The combined company has 25 online health properties.
On Jan. 24, Everyday Health filed an initial public offering, indicating it planned to raise $100 million.