Two Primary Obstacles to PHR Adoption per Epic

I recently happened upon the interoperability page on Epic’s website. Yes, I realize the irony of Epic and interoperability in the same sentence. In fact, that’s why I was so intrigued by what Epic had on their website about interoperability.

I’ll leave what they called the “physician-guided” interoperability using their Care Everywhere product for another post. In this post I just want to highlight their “freestanding Personal Health Record (PHR)” section. I was most intrigued by what Epic lists on that page as the “two primary obstacles to patient PHR adoption”:

Lucy [Epic’s PHR] is free of the two primary obstacles to patient PHR adoption:
1. There are no advertisements on Lucy.
2. Epic will not sell patient data for secondary uses.

I find this really intriguing. Let’s look at each one individually.

First, I can’t say I’ve ever heard someone say that the reason they aren’t using an EHR is because of the advertisements. I’m sure there are a few out there that wouldn’t enjoy the ads and might not use a PHR because of them, but I believe they are few and far between. Plus, PHR use has been so low that most haven’t used a PHR enough to have seen ads. So, that’s not an obstacle. Not to mention, what PHR software has ads there now? As best to my knowledge Microsoft HealthVault, NoMoreClipboard and even the now defunct Google Health have never shown ads before.

Now to the second point about selling patient data for secondary uses. This could potentially be a bigger issue. There’s little doubt that there’s value in aggregate health data. A PHR is a legitimate way to collect that aggregate health data. Some certainly have some fear of their individualized health data being learned and so they don’t want to input their health data into a PHR. However, I believe there’s a larger majority that don’t care about this all that much. Sure, they want to make sure that the PHR uses proper security in their system. They also don’t want their individual data sold, but I expect a large user base doesn’t really care if aggregate healthcare data is sold in order for them to get a product that provides value to them.

In fact, this highlights the real problem with PHR software generally. To date, the PHR has offered little value to the patient. This is the primary obstacle to patient PHR adoption. I’ve hypothesized previously a couple things that could change that patient value equation: physician interaction in the PHR and paper work completion.

The real problem with PHR software is providing the patient value, not ads or sold patient data.

About the author

John Lynn

John Lynn

John Lynn is the Founder of, a network of leading Healthcare IT resources. The flagship blog, Healthcare IT Today, contains over 13,000 articles with over half of the articles written by John. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 20 million times.

John manages Healthcare IT Central, the leading career Health IT job board. He also organizes the first of its kind conference and community focused on healthcare marketing, Healthcare and IT Marketing Conference, and a healthcare IT conference,, focused on practical healthcare IT innovation. John is an advisor to multiple healthcare IT companies. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can be found on Twitter: @techguy.

1 Comment

  • John – You nailed it with your final statement “The real problem with PHR software is providing the patient value, not ads or sold patient data.” John Moore has a good piece about patient engagement that debunks myths such as low income people won’t engage in mhealth apps. See

    In a nutshell, the 2 key takeaways are 1)provider reimbursement is critical 2)it takes two to tango (i.e., the patient sees value and engages when their clinician does).

    Epic is simply doing the tried and trued tactic of FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt). Or in this case, they are making stuff up. IBM and Microsoft and most entrenched legacy companies employ that strategy to try to distract customers from technology that has leapfrogged them. It’s entirely predictable and good you sniffed it out.

    One of the key issues they don’t highlight why some patients won’t participate is they recognize that a proprietary patient portal that doesn’t connect to all the other EHRs has limited value. Unfortunately, the default approach of using a EHR vendor’s patient portal furthers the silo-ization of healthcare and perpetuates the myth that people only have one provider their entire life. People have multiple providers at one time, let alone their whole life (e.g., 50 million Americans move every year). Consider Group Health. They have a system that is fine for patients while they are in their system. If you move or change providers, I’ve been told you have to pay $1 per page to get a copy of your own records. That “data hostage” strategy is disappointing from an organization that is otherwise a thought leader.

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