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The Dossia Dossier

There’s a major new player in the PHR market that has the backing of some of the largest corporations in the US.

What is it?

Dossia is a not-for-profit organization launched about 18 months ago by a consortium of five major corporations: Applied Materials Inc, BP America Inc, Intel, Pitney Bowes Inc, and Wal-Mart. Dubbed the Dossia Founders Group, they have since been joined by AT&T, Cardinal Health, and Sanofi-Aventis. The purpose of this endeavor: to design and deploy a Web-based personal health record (PHR) initiative.

Emphasizing greater patient control over their healthcare information, the Dossia project will create what it describes as “lifelong personal health records” for Founders Group employees and their dependents. The Dossia launch press release quoted JD Kleinke, chairman and CEO of the Omnimedix Institute, the organization tasked with developing the Dossia PHR framework, as saying “Dossia will empower individuals to manage their own healthcare, improve communications with their doctors, and ensure more complete and accurate information for healthcare providers than the current fragmented, paper-based system.”

Dossia severed ties with Omnimedix in September 2007, electing to go with a new vendor/partner, Children’s Hospital of Boston, and new technology, the open-source Indivo PHR platform.

The press release announcing the switch praised the Indivo system for enabling patients “to integrate their health information across sites of care and over their life time, and to selectively share that data with healthcare providers and family members.”

Apparently, the two groups split over a lawsuit. According to this article, Dossia claimed Omnimedix “didn’t meet its milestones and Omnimedix said it wasn’t being paid.” The article also reports that more details are hard to come by, as a court granted Dossia’s request to seal the records of the case.

How does it work?

Dossia PHR (actually, some have claimed Dossia is technically a PHP, a “personal health platform”) users will be able to select which of their healthcare providers can access their PHR, and also indicate which data they can access. Patients won’t be able to delete data in their records, but they can add comments and information on their conditions.

A Chillmark Research profile of Dossia noted it will “provide a single, common infrastructure for the collection and storage of personal health information” and “structure itself on a utility model, providing foundational, personal health record services for the broader community.” The profile also points out that “Dossia will establish a common set of application programming interfaces (APIs) to allow various PHAs (personal health applications) to access data for presentation to the consumer. Lastly, Dossia will create a single set of certification standards for PHAs to insure that they conform to policies and protocols regarding data use and distribution.”

The Dossia website lists several features and functions users can employ, including the ability to share “complete and up-to-date health information” with physicians and other healthcare providers, avoid “potentially dangerous delays, mistakes and miscommunications” when more than one health professional is involved in providing care, track chronic illnesses, and “cut down on medical errors and eliminate waste.”

The site stresses Dossia’s portable and private nature, and consistently reiterates the need for patients and consumers to have tools such as Dossia that enable them to take greater control over their healthcare information.

When will it launch?

As with most large-scale health information technology initiatives, it’s hard to say when the project will be fully implemented. The president of the Dossia group, according to a recent Health Data Management article, said the designers are “testing aspects of the infrastructure, linking data from insurers, pharmacies and other sources to a central repository.” He said Dossia will soon “approach dozens of provider organizations in the cities where most of its members’ employees work to begin building links to their electronic health records systems. The goal is to be ready for participating employers to offer the full PHR to select subsets of their employees by Q3 2008.

Why should you care about this?

There are already dozens of PHR products on the market, and considerable money, research, and marketing has gone into the effort to raise the public’s awareness for this new technology and its capabilities. However, until very recently, physicians could easily ignore this developing field. For the most part projects and efforts were conceived on a small scale, developed in isolation, and modest in their ambitions. But now, the progress made by the Dossia group, combined with Google’s Google Health project and Microsoft’s Health Vault, means docs can’t ignore this any more. With high-profile projects like these receiving major financial backing from some of the nation’s largest employers, patient demand for PHRs and the control over medical information they provide will only increase.

Where can you learn more about it?

Answers to 8 Frequently Asked Questions about Dossia

Dossia Looks to the East for a New Record System

Dossia Newsroom

Wal-Mart is Piloting E-health Record System