Offering consumers their medical histories electronically should ease setting up a PHR, a process that now may involve manually entering the data. Current products "can be challenging for consumers to use," Ricciardi said.
People "can't easily get their information in an electronic form to flow into" a PHR, she said. "If they're trying to use a stand-alone product and type it in all by hand, that's tough. When it becomes ... easy to download their information, I foresee interest in that area growing."
Tech companies need to consider developing components that extend PHRs beyond just an "electronic filing cabinet." Using a PHR to solely store medical information has merit, Ricciardi noted. People can review their records for errors and work with health care providers to make them complete.
However, a static PHR isn't "as compelling as file cabinet plus cool, interactive stuff," she said. People need a reason to access their PHR besides to add data.
"They want things they can do with their information," she said. "They want interactive applications, games, things that engage them in their health. There are more reasons to actually access and use your health information if more of these tools were out and about."
People need to see value in using a PHR and that proposition remains "pretty unclear," said Boehm.
"Labs results and prescription refills are the number-one and number-two reasons people go to their Kaiser PHR," she said, referencing the PHR offered by health care consortium Kaiser Permanente.
While consumer enthusiasm about using PHRs is tepid, the overall consumer use of health IT is strong, according to data Ricciardi studied. She cited a study from the Pew Research Center's Internet & American Life Project that found 80 percent of people online search for health information. The Web also offers people online communities where they can get advice on a variety of medical topics.
Consumers also want mobile devices to help keep them healthy.
"We have seen data that people show interest in using medical devices or smartphones to monitor health," she added.
Tech vendors looking to enter the space need to consider user interaction when developing products. People need technology that helps them improve their health without undertaking a complicated process, said Ricciardi.
"You have to meet consumers where they are," she said. "Instead of creating new devices, use something that people are already using, whether it's their cellphone or smartphone."
Even as people use tech to stay well, doctors still have a role in educating patients about using IT tools to manage their health.
"Clearly the provider plays an important role in encouraging people to learn and do things," said Ricciardi.