While I don’t think anything called a personal health record or PHR will succeed — too much baggage with that term — the start of 2014 seems like a good time to reflect on the future of the-thing-formerly-known-as-the-PHR.

The biggest success story here has been Kaiser, where nearly 2/3 of users use its “personal health record”. I put the term in quotes because the usage isn’t really about the record at all, it’s about specific functionality, namely getting a prescription refilled, emailing your doctor, or scheduling an appointment. The only part that has anything to do with health records is looking up test results, and that’s usually just about whether your latest results are ok or not.

So it’s about helping real people solve real health problems, about getting health stuff done in the right context. (Quick side note: the PHR I worked on at Google failed fundamentally because it didn’t help many people solve real problems.) When the context is interacting with your doctor for a refill or appointment, patient portals like Kaiser’s are outstanding. What about all of the other contexts that matter for our health?

I expect to see more “vertical” tools and solutions that tackle specific problems exceptionally well. While in the health world we tend to want one solution that does everything, the consumer technology world suggests that the commitment and focus of innovators who are passionate about their problem leads to winning products. I’ll bet on Misfit Wearables over Nike in the self-tracking space, and while I can’t live without Gmail or Google Docs, if I need a nearby restaurant I go to Yelp.

We’ll see someone — perhaps CareDox — do an awesome job with immunization tracking + school and camp forms, because that’s a pain point and doctor’s offices don’t have enough incentive to do it really well on their own. My favorite (and biased) example is Hula, a service which helps you get STD testing, retrieve the results, AND share the verified results with someone before having sex with them. Might sound crazy to some, but think about the number of people for whom this should be a touch point for health and prevention. I said biased because I’m an advisor to Hula, though I’ll also mention that I asked them if I could be an advisor, not the other way around.

Let’s get vertical.