As federal agencies develop strategies to create an integrated, nationwide system for electronic medical records, a small, private company is betting that individuals, or their employers, will pay for a less-sophisticated system thats ready today.
REDmedic Inc., of San Jose, Calif., announced Monday its "consumer to caregiver" service: Members can manage and store information over the Internet and make it available for emergency medical personnel.
REDmedics model is similar to that of CapMed and MedicAlert. CapMed members carry a key chain that contains medical information and plugs into a computers USB port. MedicAlert members wear bracelets to alert emergency responders to medical conditions and to call in for additional information stored online.
REDmedic members would enter and manage their information online; REDMedic provides a Web site as well as phone and fax numbers that medical staffs can use to request medical information supplied by REDmedic members. The contact information is provided on emergency cards and stickers, and information exchange is HIPAA-compliant. Future REDmedic offerings would let members store additional information such as advance directives.
Erica Drazen, vice president of research at First Consulting Group, said such a business model faces a steep, if not impassable road, and that other companies with similar models have failed. "There isnt a big consumer market for things we think of as uncovered services," she said. "The idea of patients maintaining records has been around for a long time. A lot of money was put into them; none of those companies still exist."
While the REDmedic system would allow members to review information with their doctors, another worry is that patients would not update their information, or that they could misenter information.
REDmedic says the company plans to persuade companies to offer membership as a benefit to their employees, but some individuals will sign up for the approximately $35-per-year service on their own. "Consumers certainly have a responsibility to take care of themselves, and the price point is less than $3 a month, less than AAA [the American Automobile Association, a popular provider of emergency roadside assistance]," said Ken Toren, REDmedics vice president of marketing and co-founder.
However, First Consulting Groups Drazen said that usefulness and the market for such consumer products would fade as offerings from health care providers increased, partly because providers would be better able to ensure information was correct and current. "You have to be able to access information that comes from the provider," she said, adding that such systems could provide services patients would value, and so encourage them to access medical information in ways that could both improve their health and cheapen costs of chronic care. "Patients are demanding more service, and they want to be able to talk to their doctors by e-mail, schedule appointments and access information vetted by their doctors."
On the other hand, even the most sophisticated electronic medical records systems contain no information on patients outside their network of health care providers. In a statement accompanying REDmedics announcement, Dr. Andrew Newman, chairman of Stanford Universitys Health Information Management Committee, said, "Until a national health infrastructure is complete, the REDmedic service is capable of delivering online personal medical information to any doctor, any hospital, at anytime within the U.S."