When I was in my early twenties, I found a solid mass in my left breast. The mass was removed at a day surgery. Lucky for me, it was a benign cyst. I don’t remember the exact date of when this happened. But every time I had to explain my health history, I mentioned this fuzzy memory. If I ever forget, nobody would know about this. Part of my health history would be missing. I might also be missing the opportunity to take actions against future breast cysts or tumors.
Recently, I participated in a study for schizophrenia and went through MRI scans. The researcher found a slightly significant white dot in my brain scan and notified me. She also sent me a report and a CD of all the images. If one day I need this information, I hope I remember. I have not idea where the physical report and CD is at home.
When Google, Microsoft, and WebMD released their PHR a decade ago, I was excited. Finally, I would have a place to organize my health information. I tried them and found them clunky. I decided to stick with my mess and did not end up using any of them. Since then, there have been other attempts at creating a personal health record but nothing has taking off yet.
I often think about this problem – digitizing and organizing my health record. The analog for me is how we went from balancing our checking account on paper to using Quicken to manually enter each transaction based on physical receipts, to using banking websites that automatically track our spending and saving, to using Mint which provides an integrated view of multiple financial accounts, to using Betterman where we can easily make investment decisions. We have come a long way with how we manage money. So what about health?
I believe that we all need to organize our own health record. I suggest that we create PHR2, a second generation of a personal health record software solution for the everyday consumers. Here are the whys.
Why do we need to have our Personal Health Record (PHR2)?
- Take control of my and my family’s health
- Prevent loss of part or all of my and my family’s health history
- Understand our current health status and risks based on our health history
- Increase my health literacy and make informed health decisions
- Be a better patient or caregiver
- Manage my chronic or acute conditions more effectively
- Avoid serious drug interactions by knowing my medications
- Know what to do next by understanding my test results
- Be prepared in an emergency
- Stay healthy. Can take preventive measures
- Able to validate the accuracy of my records and history. Find the gaps in my doctor’s medical records
How is it different from electronic medical records (EMR)?
EMR often contains medical terms and jargon that everyday consumers may not and don’t need to understand. EMR is a record keeping system for health professionals, not patients. I don’t believe that we can put a patient-facing interface on top of an existing EMR and call that PHR.
I came across PicnicHealth and found their model very interesting. Patients pay Picnic a fee, and it will try to get all of your medical records from all of the different hospitals and health systems in your life. For more details, see Tech Crunch.
Apple announced earlier this year that, Health Records is going to be a new menu in the Health Data section of the Health app. You’ll be able to add any file to this menu as long as it’s a CDA file (Clinical Document Architecture). Some hospitals already email you those files or make them available on their website. But Apple wants to automate this process. For more details, see Tech Crunch.
On the other hand, why do we not need it right now?
- I am fairly healthy and don’t interact with doctors too often
- I have not done anything and that seems to be okay
- I don’t have time to manually organize everything
- I will depend on my memory if someone asks me about my health history
- I find it easy to keep a notebook
- The doctor or someone has my information and that should be enough
Taking control is definitely not easy. Health is not as straightforward as money. But I definitely see consumer needs, pain points, and opportunities. I am waiting for the right, simple, and easy solution to be created. If I win the lottery, I would try to build a PHR2 for us! Meanwhile, I am keeping a close eye on what becomes available for everyday consumers.