A glance of a very basic personal healthcare records application

In the verge of celebrating another birthday there is always some time to reflect about life and desires for the years to come but at this point in my life health is something that has started getting higher in my priority list. I do ask my self if what I am feeling now is what triggers 40+ men to start doing things we had never done before and that is why in this period of life some of us come across to the so called mid-age crisis syndrome. For sure good health is something that all of us give for granted until we get to our family doctor’s office for a routine physical exam and despite that everything seems to be normal for our age, we have a somewhat healthy diet and have minimal exercise habits we end up bringing home a stack of pamphlets that make us think further on how to keep your health on check.

This time in particular,  one little booklet pop up from the stack. All the rest of them just seemed too familiar but this one titled “PERSONAL HEALTH RECORDS for Men” really stood up. For one moment I recalled all those doctor visits I have been asked to fill up three or more pages about our current and past health events while getting medical attention which is commonly referred in the medical jargon as “Anamnesis“. Is interesting this piece of folded cardboard would help me to track my health events down so I may not need to remember every single detail anymore. Let’s examine how great this tool could it be.

The pen and paper approach

I am pretty sure you will find one of these booklets or a fairly similar pamphlet at your doctor’s office but just in case you are curious about how mine looks like here it is  a summary.

Front and Back pages

Front page requires basic information about the person tracking the records. In this case the name of the person tracking its own information and how to contact his primary doctor. In this example it doea not seem much but bear minumin in case of an accident or emergency.The back side looks more like an advertisement but also useful in case of an medical emergency.

Instructions and health advice pages

This particular booklet includes a couple of pages that helps you understand how to track of personal health records, medical checks and recommendations  such as periodic examinations and suggested life style. This might not seemed to be much but it is quite significant amount of information for the limited space available.

Inside pages 1 – Medical records

Here it is where the action starts to take place; rendered four tabular structures to cover four different health tracking aspects such as “Fecal Occult Blood Test“, “Sigmoidoscopy“, “Digital Rectal Exam” and “Cholesterol“.Information about what is getting tracked and its suggested periodicity is also included in this section. Tables show several columns explaining what to track for each event and several rows are available to fill up each event.

 Inside pages 2 – Medical records

There is a second section inside the booklet to cover four more health tracking concepts such as; “PSA (Prostate specific antigen)”, “Blood pressure“, “Influenza vaccine‘, “Tetanus-diphtheria” and “Pneumococcal vaccine“. Similar layout is proposed with an exception for a one time tracking event added in the last section.

Conclusions

The pen and paper  approach to keep track of personal medical records is definitely better than not having any tracking mechanism at all. This is unexpensive, no batteries replacement or power source recharging needed, Pocket sized and easy to carry (can be considered a “mobile” solution), not a high tech degree required for configuring, setting it up and maintaining it in good shape.

There are some negative considerations that can be spotted :

  • Keeping our information secure and confidential could be a problem but it is not difficult to find a good and robust solution for this. Information contained in the booklet may be insecurely expose while carrying it over with us to doctor visits. Ink on Paper or cardboard is a material susceptible degradation, water/fire damage that may conduce to partial or total information loss.
  • While adding new information (data for each event) into the booklet is pretty easy, making corrections can be problematic and can induce data integrity problems which may cause confusion in future reviews of data. Data backup can be as simple as creating photocopies of current pamphlet keeping track of revisions organized might not be either secure or practical to manage.
  • Information that can be tracked with booklet is pretty much static and there is no room for adding new medical aspects to track. also the number of events per medical aspect already contained in the booklet is finite up to 9 events maximum .  An option can be using a second booklet to continue adding data points which may be not convenient or can be less secured.
  • After reviewing an “Authoritative source from Mayo clinic” about this topic. Seems like the booklet described in this article is pretty accurate but it is limited to some “preventive disease” topics such as “results from screenings and laboratory tests”,  “cholesterol levels and blood pressure” and “Vaccinations” but still lacks of few additional preventive aspects and it definitely lacks of major medical information such as “Allergies”, “Medications”, “Chronic problems” and “major surgeries” to mention just a few.  The main issue is that the booklet itself can not be easily and confidently extended to support any extra information that is currently not considered.

 Future work

A first step for taking care of our own health is definitely to start keeping track of our “personal healthcare records” for both preventive and corrective measures, This would help our healthcare providers to perform a more accurate and on time diagnosis of a current or future health problems which may lead to a higher probability of finding a cure or expedite healing.

While using “Pen and Paper” is a great start its inherent limitations may rapidly become an obstacle if the number of medical aspects to be tracked become  insufficient as they would need to be increased over time.

Exploring the possibility to transform our “Pen and Paper” approach into an electronically or digitally driven application can be an option to overcome some or all the limitations found. Going from Analog approach to a digital (computer driven) personal healthcare records management can also bring a different level of drawbacks that needs to be clearly outlined.

In order to keep the “mobility” aspect of this records tracking mechanism portable computers must be considered for enabling access to “Personal Healthcare Records”. Some possible target devices for implementing a software applications can include but should not be limited to “smart-phones”, “Tablets”, “Thin/portable computers” either connected to “Cloud Services” or not.