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

Dates of Program: February 2006 through June 2014

Description: 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 $9.4 million program was managed by a research team at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Nursing led by Patricia Flatley Brennan, RN, PhD, FAAN, FACMI.

Project HealthDesign awarded two rounds of funding.

“By putting consumers at the center of the design process, we have demonstrated a powerful vision of how personal health records and new technologies can empower people to better manage their health and work together with their providers to get the care they need.”—RWJF President and CEO Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, MD, MBA

Key Findings

  • A person’s own observations of daily living (ODLs) can add significant depth and dimension to personal health records, giving physicians and other providers a more robust picture of a patient’s health, leading to improved clinical decision-making and saved lives.


  • Advances in consumer technologies such as smartphones and wearable fitness devices make it possible for individual consumers to have more control over their personal health records than ever before, opening the way for them to become more directly engaged in their health.

  • Having access to their personal health information and control over it seemed to be even more important to patients than privacy.

  • Despite the opportunities for greater consumer control and engagement provided by new technologies, technical, legal, regulatory, and institutional barriers hinder widespread adoption of those capabilities.

“The concept of observations of daily living is an important and missing link in the health data panorama.”—Program Director Patricia Brennan, RN, PhD, FAAN, FACMI

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Project HealthDesign: Observations of daily living are clinically significant to personal health records.

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Observations of daily living in personal health records help build a #CultureofHealth.