Zuri -- color me skeptical about this and other online health records

Monitoring your health at home looks like an incredible opportunity for big and small vendors -- including Zume Life, which just announced the 'Zuri' -- a hand-held device which prompts users to take their pills and keeps track of health-related issues, including upload to a Web page that can be shared. It will cost around $200 when it is available in the spring, plus $40-50/month for Web services. And just think -- it will be available on the iPhone as well! The New York Times correctly, I think, published under the category of 'Novelties'.

Meanwhile, Microsoft's HealthVault has a partnership with Kaiser Permanente and other providers -- and the fortunate user will be able to upload data directly to their account from 50 (!) different health-related devices. And Google offers similar. Both big guns will support multiple standard formats and their basic service is free. More money is required to exchange info with their doctors MaxEmail by fax.

So let's be more than a bit skeptical about the likely adoption for this. According to the AARP Healthy@Home study, only 11% of responders age 65+ were aware of 'Internet monitoring with provider communication' (far lower than PERS 91%, or Telephone-based monitoring at 48%).   And although 38% said they might be willing to use such a capability, 84% indicated they would be only willing to pay less than $50/month to do so.

This says to me that Microsoft, Google and Zume Life have a long way to go to get folks interested in uploading anything on their own -- and that may be WITH their providers engaged, as with Kaiser. Now if anyone could assert that this might lower their healthcare premium or out-of-pocket costs by at least $50/month -- now that's a different story. 

Focus on the person, not the disease and not the provider

The real issue is not the rapidity of AARP's population adopting the Zume Life solution, but rather how people who want to do a better job of self-care can have more success. Many people with chronic illnesses, even those who are well educated, motivated, and financially comfortable are unable to tend to all their own health-related activities as well as they would like -- they forget their medications, they are unable to keep track of their food, their symptoms, their moods, and hence don't have a clear sense of what works and what doesn't. Their challenge is one of *doing*. Zume Life is focused on helping these people take care of their own health, of enabling and empowering them to do what they *want* to do. You may want to read the white paper "Requirements and Design Implications for Mobile Self-Care Systems", available on our web site, to appreciate the complexity of the user's task and what needs to be done to make those tasks doable. A couple of additional thoughts: 1) Early adopters are likely to be Boomers, rather than the elderly. They have very busy and complicated lives, leaving them very little time for self-care. 2) Though it is important, of course, to think about how to help all 150 million Americans with chronic illnesses, it is just as critical to first make an impact somewhere, in some portion of that population. The learnings from initial successes will be critical to guide later progress.

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