Health Record Banks vs. Health Information Exchange

The advantages of the HRB model are many, as enumerated by a recent article published by the Biomedical Informatics Think Tank (BITT). HRBs would allow an individual to see all of their information in one place without any need to aggregate the information as required by current approaches to HIEs. Applications could be developed to allow users of HRBs to set up notifications for themselves or their loved ones in the event that their account was accessed by a healthcare provider in an emergency situation. Patients could use their HRB to monitor fitness plans and connect with healthcare providers about things like nutrition, physical therapy, and chronic disease management plans.

In order for HRBs to work, though, they will require large-scale participation—from patients, healthcare providers, mobile device manufacturers, and application developers. Several companies have made an effort to popularize user-initiated HRBs, but none has had notable success. Microsoft has a little-known HRB service called HealthVault, and Harvard University’s Data Privacy Lab unveiled an HRB called MyDataCan in 2012–but few updates have been announced about the system since the initial unveiling. Google Health was launched in 2008 and then cancelled in 2011. In a blog post about the discontinuation of the failed HRB service, Google stated,

When we launched Google Health, our goal was to create a service that would give people access to their personal health and wellness information…

Now, with a few years of experience, we’ve observed that Google Health is not having the broad impact that we hoped it would. There has been adoption among certain groups of users like tech-savvy patients and their caregivers, and more recently fitness and wellness enthusiasts. But we haven’t found a way to translate that limited usage into widespread  adoption in the daily health routines of millions of people.

Unfortunately, for the time being, it seems that the HRB model remains a concept that is easy to buy into, but difficult to sell.