I am Human Guinea Pig!

I was an early user of Steve Case’s America Online (although I since have dropped the service) and I have read and written a lot about personal health records. (Former President Bill Clinton and former Speaker Newt Gingrich both expressed support for electronic health records yesterday). So when I discovered that Steve Case’s Revolution Health is offering free membership through the end of the year, I decided to give it a try.

I enrolled by providing my demographic information, e.g., date of birth gender, but no credit card information. I then was brought to my Revolution Health home page. It was very pink and it had quotes from “my circle” members. The quotes were all from women in their childbearing years talking about pregancy, breastfeeding, and fertility issues. It turns out that I was not assigned to a circle and these were sample quotes, but having given my age and gender, I did expected Revolution Health to place me a sample old white guys circle. I know that Amazon.com knows my preferences so it could have been done. It was a turn off, but I pressed on.

I started to build my own PHR. I learned couple things. It’s a time consuming process, and I would not be surprised if people quit in the middle and don’t go back to it. Updating it is another issue entirely. I will have to update mine because if I don’t actively use my account, Revolution Health will terminate my free membership.

I expect that health plan sponsored PHRs pre-populate the record with data that I had to fill in on the Revolution Health PHR. But I still expect that the process would take some time.

I also learned that building a PHR is a thought provoking, particularly if you don’t think often about such matters (denial being one of my personal strong suits). I was not surprised when after inputting my height and weight, my PHR told me that I am “obese”, but I don’t appreciate it either as I am an American. (Aside – I read an article today about how Gary Player, the 71 year old golfer, who has a rock hard gut does 100 crunches per day. Wow.) I also noticed that the Revolution Health PHR does not collect particularly detailed information. For example, while it asks you to identify the medications that you take, it does not ask for the pill size.

An added feature of membership is a downloadable program called SimoHealth that helps you track your medical expenses. I gave that a whirl and I can see its advantages if your family has a lot of medical bills. Intuit, the maker of Quicken, offers a similar program, Medical Expense Manager. Insurers can offer customized versions of these programs to their members.

Here are some other features of Revolution Health that I may check out later:

I don’t plan to fax my medical records to Steve Case so he can upload them for me in the site’s Personal Health Records Express. I’ll bet that a lot the same stuff is available at WebMD but I’ll continue to check this out while it’s free.