A startup that helps you access and retain your medical records (to which you are entitled) from providers. Another proof of how impenetrable and complex our healthcare system is.

It’s a brilliant niche. MotherKnows will interact with the healthcare system (your physician, hospital, insurer, etc.) on your behalf to procure a copy of the medical record, store it, analyze it and make the information available to you on-demand. Anyone who has tried getting their child’s immunization record will agree that the conventional interaction is a sub-optimal customer service experience at best. So having someone else do it for you is worth paying for.

Once collected, the information is available in a PHR manner – view meds, problems, allergies, immunizations, growth charts in one place; create emergency cards; get reminders; mobile access, etc. But the key to MotherKnows’ viability, in my view, is being the authorized agent for painful extraction of medical records. As long as the pricing is right (which, at $19-$98/year, is in the right range) it will gain traction.

It’s a prudent strategy to market it initially to parents as a way to keep the records straight for their precious progeny. But I don’t see why it can’t be extended to adult healthcare consumers themselves. I’d like to be able to get my medical data all in one place, hopefully showing me trends found in my quasi-annual physical exams and labs. Today in the patient population, the motivated few try to save copies of records; and the enlightened few go one step further and manually key the data into an online PHR like Healthvault. In either case manual labor and discipline is required. Perhaps having a real-world service (of paper record collection) is what really can make a difference to PHR uptake by consumers. Hopefully, MotherKnows will reach beyond just child medical records in future.

The overall idea of patients paying an agency to wrest to their medical records from providers point to the underlying systemic inefficiencies. Theoretically, there are solutions on the horizon. An enterprise EHR used by care providers could pass the relevant info into a PHR accessible by patients. And if they change providers, a community-wide Health Information Exchange (HIE) could still enable patients to be the custodian of thier own information in another system. But we are not there yet.

The unmet need for electronic systems (like PHRs) to interface with the physical world (i.e. bricks and mortar organizations and paper processes) is very real. Till every end-point in healthcare delivery is digitized and interoperability is no longer a pipe dream, we’ll need services that handle real-world complexities. Take companies like eHGT who are already in this ‘record retrieval services‘ niche. By actually having real account managers who can get imaging records from facilities, they elevate the value proposition of an “Image Exchange” to new level. The phenomenon exists outside of healthcare too. The now defunct Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness (RAOGK) site was a volunteer effort to bridge the gap between virtual demand and physical supply of genealogy records.