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Dossia Dives In With Health Manager

By John Moore Comments
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Following closely on the demise of Google Health, fellow Personal Health Record (PHR) platform provider Dossia announced last week a major upgrade of their platform with the release of Dossia Health Manager. I got a deep product dive at the end of last week and spoke with Dossia’s new CEO, Mike Critelli. Initial take: Health Manager is a restart for the struggling Dossia. Following is part one of my assessment.

Background

Dossia was founded what seems like nearly a century ago but was, in reality, five years ago, in 2006. (Maybe we need to measure the PHR market like dog years with every human year representing 20 PHR years.) In 2007, Dossia chose the Indivo platform, developed at Children’s Hospital in Boston, as the basis for its future PHR system. One could argue that Dossia and the Indivo platform it was developed on were the precursor for both Google Health and Microsoft’s HealthVault.

Beginning with six founding members, all large self-insured employers including Intel, AT&T and Pitney Bowes, Dossia struggled to get the platform live but was finally able to pull it off for Wal-Mart in October 2008. The PHR partner for Wal-Mart on the Dossia platform was WebMD. Reports we received from the field on this deployment were not encouraging; it appeared that there was a major push to quickly demonstrate the value of Dossia, and we all know what happens when things get pushed before they are fully baked. Dossia learned a lot in that first deployment and has proceeded in a more methodical fashion. Six of its now ten members run on Dossia. Unfortunately, Critelli was unwilling to state how many employees of founders are using Dossia today, which makes one assume that the majority of these current deployments are in pilot stage.

It’s important that unlike Google and Microsoft, Dossia is a non-profit consortium of large employers seeking to improve employee health and wellness and provide their workers with more control over their medical data. That changes the incentives, and the business model.

In addition to getting Dossia live, Dossia has struggled to attract new employers. In the five years since its founding, only four new employers have joined. This raises the larger question: Can Dossia become a viable entity? The jury’s still out on that one, but based on what we saw last week and our conversation with Critelli this morning, Dossia is on the right track.

Dossia Today

Let’s start with the new Health Manager.

As we have argued countless times on this website, no one is interested in a digital file cabinet for their personal health records. What patients, employees, consumers, etc. do desire is a platform that allows them to leverage their PHRs to better manage their interactions with the healthcare system as well as potentially manage their health or the health of a loved one. Ideally, such a platform would be intuitive to use (Google Health was quite good at this), able to readily import data from a multitude of sources (HealthVault excels here), and would provide a number of tools that leverage one’s PHR that are simple to select and use. This is a core competency of WebMD’s own private portal offerings (sold to payers and employers), which is Dossia’s chief competitor.

With the release of Health Manager (available to employers this fall), Dossia has brought together a fairly compelling, self-contained and comprehensive solution that should prove attractive to employers. This may be the first serious threat to WebMD’s dominance in the employer market and, as we have reported before, WebMD, which has been milking its private portal business for a couple of years now, has seen contraction and is vulnerable.

The Dossia Health Manager starts off by providing the user the opportunity to choose from a number of different apps, including the usual list of health content, medication manager, an immunization tracker, even the free text4baby app. One will also find, via partners, the Healthcare Blue Book to provide procedure pricing transparency and AmeriHealth for telemedicine, as well as some social media/gaming functions that employers can leverage to encourage healthy behaviors.

Once the various apps and functions are chosen by the user, the user is presented with a dashboard customized to their specific needs. As with most PHRs, a given user can take on the role of family CMO (chief medical officer) and, with the consent of other family members, view their records as well. Health Manager is accessible from any connected device through the Web portal, and can send appointment reminders and the like to users’ mobile devices.

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This is an absolutely huge step forward for Dossia in the creation of a simple to use and simple to understand PHR platform. What is particularly nice about Health Manager is that it provides the user a fairly selective but complete set of core functionality. The Dossia has taken out some of the mystery and challenge that confronts many consumers when they attempt to use one of the other PHRs in the market: which application should I use to manage this aspect of my health? Good luck trying to do that on HealthVault, as the choice (there are 23 separate PHRs to choose from) is a bit overwhelming and ultimately paralyzing.

But in providing this capability, Dossia has made a conscious decision to tread into the PHR waters by providing PHR functionality. So long WebMD (the relationship with Wal-Mart dissolved some time ago), and goodbye to other PHR providers looking to ride atop of the Dossia platform (unless of course you can get an employer customer of yours to demand the Dossia platform, which is the case for Intel, which is also using Mayo’s Embody Health). I see this as a logical and needed progression for Dossia, as employers do not want a multitude of apps to manage for health and wellness initiatives—they want one comprehensive, easy to understand and deploy solution. Dossia is now prepared to deliver on that need.

My next post will dig deeper into the business of Dossia and its go-to-market strategy, which to date has been, shall we say less than stellar.

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