Google's PHR easier to use than Microsoft's, report says

February 27, 2009

Google's personal health records application beats Microsoft's because it's easier to use, according to participants in an independent study by a user experience research firm.

Google’s personal health records application beats Microsoft’s because it’s easier to use, according to participants in an independent study by a user experience research firm.

In January and December, Chicago-are firm User Centric conducted a study in which 30 participants were assigned to complete “key tasks” using the two tech firms’ PHR applications, according to a report from the company. The participants then rated Google Health and Microsoft HealthVault in five areas: usability, usefulness, security, privacy, and trust. Neither tech firm participated in the study, User Centric says.

(A PHR is a patient history of medical conditions, allergies, medications, immunizations, doctors, appointments, and other information that is stored online and can be viewed and managed on a web browser.)

Overall, participants preferred Google because navigation and data entry of health information were easier. Google also earned high marks for using more-familiar medical terminology than Microsoft and including a “highly desirable” drug interaction feature that Microsoft lacks, the report says.

Microsoft’s PHR application drew complaints for its “confusing” navigation, use of “medical jargon,” and “inconsistency” between different data entry screens, the report says. Microsoft received higher grades for security, privacy, and trust, though the reasons behind that seem to have little to do with factors that would actually affect security and privacy – users pointed to HealthVault’s “strong brand image, professional-looking visual design, and a higher perceived information content,” the report says.

In general, participants said they found PHRs to be useful and said the study spurred interest in creating their own PHRs. Still, participants’ biggest problems with both applications related to user experience, leading the research firm to conclude that enhancements to user experience present the “greatest opportunity” in improving patients’ interaction with PHRs.

A Microsoft spokeswoman noted that the company is in “the early stages” of developing its PHR application. “We are still in beta and are very committed to continuous improvement, which includes ongoing refinement of our user interface,” she says via e-mail.

Google declined comment on User Centric’s study.