Project HealthDesign: Rethinking the Power and Potential of Personal Health Records

A Progress Report

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) launched Project HealthDesign: Rethinking the Power and Potential of Personal Health Records in 2006 to stimulate innovation in personal health information technology. The $10 million program is managed by a research team at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Nursing led by Patricia Flatley Brennan, RN, PhD.

Project HealthDesign has awarded two rounds of funding.

Key Results to Date

  • Round 1: Nine grants in December 2006 to multidisciplinary teams that developed technology-based self-management tools for personal health focused on the needs, preferences and living environments of individuals. These projects ended in 2009.

  • Round 2: Five grants in December 2009 to teams that are testing whether and how observations of daily living can be collected and interpreted by patients and clinicians. These grants run to November 2011.

    Project HealthDesign
    addresses the challenge of giving people the information tools they need to help manage their health conditions. "Information technology tools in the last 15 years have targeted professional users and have been designed to meet the health concerns of professionals," explains National Program Director Patricia Brennan.

    "Our work begins with a person's understanding of how the tools fit with [his or her] everyday living," Brennan says. "If they are designed with the understanding of the patient and also the clinician, this results in greater adherence to treatment protocols, more timely care and so on."

    • In Round 1, the nine teams came up with things that were not at all what had been thought about in 2006.
    • Some of the projects developed products that Brennan says are close to being ready for market.
    • Other projects, says Brennan, worked on basic infrastructure, such as integrating patient information with clinical databases.

In addition to supporting the individual projects, the program also developed a "common platform" for personal health applications. The common platform is a set of software tools that provides a number of key services. The tools are available both as Web services, accessible by any personal health application, and as source code, for incorporation into information technology applications. They make development of new applications easier and enable multiple applications to work together.