Consumer Enlightment – The Power of Personalized Health

Enlightenment (ĕn-līt’n-mənt) n.

  1. The act or a means of enlightening; state of being enlightened.
  2. A philosophical movement of the 18th century that emphasized the use of reason to scrutinize previously accepted doctrines and traditions and that brought about many humanitarian reforms.

I have been a little quite lately, for which I apologize, but have been busy with a few things that are starting to heat up.

First, and foremost, I am excited to be a part of the announcement today regarding the re-introduction of MyMedLab into the ongoing wave of consumerism within healthcare. MyMedLab is yet another example of how the direct empowerment of users (ie, engaged consumers formerly known as passive patients) is enabling the transformational crossover between the traditional delivery of health services into the brave new world of Health 2.0.

So what does MyMedLab do and why am I involved?

MyMedLab is a privately held company with the primary mission of empowering consumers to make informed health care choices. The company accomplishes this by offering direct-to-consumer (DTC) laboratory testing services via a unique suite of software applications and professional networks that enable the ordering, processing, and reporting of test results directly to consumers. These services include access to wellness tests organized by organ and disease profiles, physician oversight of test ordering, educational laboratory content, and results reporting through the web-based MyMedLab Personal Health Record (PHR). In addition to the direct to consumer channel, MyMedLab also offers their software as a subscription service to physician offices or provider organizations developing community outreach programs that incorporate DTC services.

I became involved as an extension of my documentation of the growing groundswell of consumerism, technology, and health care reform back at the end of 2006. As part of my research, I began exploring what companies were actually try to do the things I was writing about. I was made aware of an interesting little company called MyMedLab that utilized the inherent advantages of the internet to drastically reduce the cost of obtaining laboratory testing while empowering people with their personal health information. Intrigued, and since I had not had a basic wellness test in over 10 years, I thought I would give it a go by purchasing a test on line.

I was amused by the fact that the CEO called me back within about 15 minutes to inform me that since I was a California resident I would be unable to obtain a testing over the internet. This didn’t seem right so we spent the next 45 minutes discussing the situation. Apparently, the golden state feels like you consumers are unable to made health care decisions for themselves and require a CA licensed physician to approve tests and review the results before distributing them to the patient. Besides the anachronistic paternalism of this law, I was just bothered by the inconsistency and inequity in preventing me as a consumer to access my own personal health information with my own money.

So I called the Department of Health regulators. I was able to speak with the Chief of Laboratory Field Services who quickly rattled off the four or five reasons why California felt direct to consumer testing was illegal. As a licensed CA physician, and as a national speaker and advocate on healthcare consumerism, I politely challenged each of the various points, including the issues related to markup laws, physician approval, and medical paternalism. Through the use of reason, and the explanation of technology, we were able to correct previously accepted traditions that had long since been eclipsed by advancing technology and increasing consumerism. After several months of delicate conversations, we were able to create a protocol that met both the letter and the spirit of the existing California laws. In essence, we were able to leverage the principle of transparency in our favor, and help regulators understand that we could use Health 2.0 technology to safely engage the consumer in obtaining their own personal health information.

As I learned more about the business model, I became intrigued by using the internet to arbitrage an inefficient market with what appears to be significantly growing consumer demand for personal health information. I also quickly saw how a personal health record, which actually contained valuable information that the patient needed (ie, laboratory results), could serve as a market differentiator in this emerging industry. Furthermore, I saw how an electronic connection to one of the major national carriers could allow the company to serve as the catalyst for the electronic transfer of data into other personal health records of national aggregators (Revolution, WebMD, etc). I understood the potential for a suite of software portals to serve as the founding element of a community outreach program for a variety of health and wellness organizations. This quickly jumped to the potential to use this type of service as a major component of a predictive health modeling solution which will ultimately go beyond analytic chemistry to include genomics and proteonomics. Most importantly, I saw a real opportunity to engage consumers with a service that provided immediate and often dramatic value over the traditional modus operandi.

Bottom line – I had seen the light!

So for the past six months, I have been helping to rethink the brand, redesign the website, reprice lab tests for maximum value, and redefine the message to match the illuminating power of controlling your personal health information. I am pleased with the re-launch and look forward to enlightening others with the possibilities to accelerate healthcare change . . .
* DISCLAIMER: I have served as the Chief Medical Advisor to MyMedLab since May 2007.

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Filed under Change Agents, Health 2.0, Innovation, Transparency

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