User experience research firm User Centric Inc. recently conducted an independent comparative usability study of two existing online personal health record (PHR) applications, Google Health and Microsoft HealthVault. (Neither Google nor Microsoft commissioned or participated in this study in any manner.) While participants' overall evaluations were certainly influenced by features, security, privacy and trust, it is critical to note that their major difficulties with both applications -- and their strongest criticisms -- were related to the user experience.
During this study, 30 participants representing patients completed key tasks using both PHR applications and provided qualitative feedback, ratings and preference data on five specific dimensions: Overall usability, utility (usefulness of features), security, privacy and trust. Participants were generally new to the concept of PHR applications. During the study, they completed seven tasks using both the Google Health and Microsoft HealthVault applications which included three application-specific tasks that explored each application's unique features.
Overall, User Centric's comparative study found neither Google Health nor Microsoft HealthVault were perfect applications; each had flaws in the user experience which were seen to reduce participants' willingness to adopt PHR technology. However, participants preferred Google Health over Microsoft HealthVault because navigation and data entry of health information was easier than on the other application. Participants said that the Google Health application used more familiar medical terminology and provided a persistent health information profile summary.
While there is a great more to be learned in this domain, leveraging actual user feedback and experience continues to be an essential step in improving PHRs and increasing the rate of PHR adoption.
Based on this usability study, User Centric has identified several guidelines to be included in a working model for PHR interfaces that facilitates user adoption.