CareZone –1999 PHR Redux?

In 1999 PersonalMD & HealthCompass were some of the new personal health records (PHRs) where you could store health data and share it with others who needed to see it. They were basically vaults, they rarely even had data linked to a drug or condition database–just plain text, and they couldn’t get data out of larger systems. And they were not successful.

Later PHRs tried to overcome these problems by making it easier to import data from other systems (think geting your drug data from Walgreens) and linking to other reference databases (so that when you enter a drug name the right spelling comes up and it can tell you about interactions, etc).

There was (and still is) the problem of how to get paper documents into the record. MyMedicalRecords.com allows you to fax in paper records to make PDFs, and has burned through some $30m in 5 years (and I was pretty cynical about them from the start). Of course even getting much of this right didn’t help many early PHRs like WellMed which went through some $40m before being sold to WebMD for $20m and iMetrikus (now Numera) which spent some $75m (est) of Chiron Founder William Rutter’s money before completely changing models.

CareZone is the product of ex-Sun CEO Jonathan Schwartz’s last two years since the fire-sale to Oracle. It was introduced to an adoring bunch of journalists yesterday including Techcrunch’s Eric Eldon, Robert Scoble, and Xconomy’s Wade Roush. All of them continue to confirm to me that they don’t much understand this market and they fawn over former techies who think that they’ve discovered health care nirvana. I really cannot see what the fuss is about. They’re all fascinated by the fact that this doesnt link to Facebook and somehow keeping instructions to take Johnny to the doctor off the Twitter feed is a huge advance. But none of them see the really basic flaws in CareZone or seem to have any history of what’s happened in this market before.

Given that I make my living promoting new health technology companies, it pains me to have to poke holes, but as far as I can see CareZone–which is marketed as a site that allows a small group of caregivers to manage their family’s care–is basically a 1999 PHR mixed with a to-do list, much like RallyRound (from the UK) or LottsaHelpingHands.

Worse, those advances of recent PHRs–including importing conditions, documents, medical records, drug lists, from other systems–are absent. Sure you can upload a PDF of a living will to CareZone–but you could do that on Google Health. And on Google Health you could also automatically import your drugs from Walgreens & CVS, as you can on HealthVault. On CareZone you have to type them in as text–there’s not even a drug database to link to behind the scenes to make sure you spelled it right. I literally typed in “Bullshit” and it’s now one of my daughter’s medications! (Click on the picture above) Even MotherKnows has a process to get your kids’ records in from the doctor. And what about the ability to bring in a BlueButton file, now available to millions of Veterans and seniors? RelayHealth and many others now allow that. Not on Carezone.

Sure, Carezone adds a to-do list and a Facebook style comment feed to communicate with other caregivers–but Dossia has that and lots lots more. And it’s simple for other records companies to add those Facebook/Basecamp features that the tech journos are so excited about–but harder for CareZone to build the links that will make this a useful service.

And did I mention that almost all those services, most of which weren’t successful, were free and CareZone wants over $150 a year?

Maybe there’s something more there to this. Who knows?  It may be a matter of timing. After all Yelp was more or less Epinions redux but people were used to commenting Web 2.0 style in 2005, not in 2000. Maybe a to-do list and a calendar are all caregivers want, even if Google provides them for free. But CareZone will have to react very quickly to add ease of use features and connectivity to other data sources.

And I really hope I’m wrong. Caregivers need all the help they can get, and there is by no means a dominant service in the “support the caregiver information process” space yet. But I fear this is one more example of another techie lost in healthcareland.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *