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How to Track Your Health – Jump on the Self-Logging Bandwagon

Posted on February 6, 2012 I Written By

Priya Ramachandran is a Maryland based freelance writer. In a former life, she wrote software code and managed Sarbanes Oxley related audits for IT departments. She now enjoys writing about healthcare, science and technology.

Last week, I wrote about Margalit Gur-Arie’s idea for a national health data repository. Commenters, including Gur-Arie, had some great comments. And one of the things that came out of that post was that if there is ever a community run national database, I would happily log my health data into it, and maybe do it for my parents and kids as well. But I don’t really have a great track record of health-logging. I’m not a Quantified Self afficionado, I don’t even check my weight on a regular enough basis. Having my husband photograph me and gauging my weight by the relative puffiness of my cheeks is what constitutes a weight check in my universe. So what are the odds of me going through piles of paper records and typing it all up for a UHR? Slim to none, but a girl can still dream.

Wired published an article late last month on How to Use Tech to Track Your Health, just for people like me. Don’t worry, assures the article, self-logging ain’t that hard, it’s probably so easy even a cavewoman can do it.

Now, just because the article is on Wired doesn’t mean it comes with awesome pedigree and stellar writing. People, it’s 2012, not 1992. If I hear about one more app that sends you text reminders about getting your annuals done, I’m going to barf. Ditto for those tired ovulation trackers. I don’t know who I blame more. the tech companies that come up with these novel solutions after every iPhone developer and their mother has already created a dozen apps and websites around the idea, or the Wired writer who thought it was newsworthy enough to include in her round-up of the most happening ideas. Either way, I don’t care. I don’t want to know about any more reminder and calendar apps, not unless this magical app connects me directly to someone like Simon Cowell or Idris Elba (ok, I have a thing or two for Brit accents). See, there’s a business idea for you – have celebrities become our health coaches and cheerleaders. Some of us might be ready to pay for the privilege.

There are the usual sleep-pattern analyzer apps and personal sleep coaches that help you get a good night’s worth.

Kvetching aside, not everything in the Wired article sounded like it was floated circa the 1900s. I quite liked reading about the BodyMedia biometric patch that apparently works like one of those ciggie patches, and logs your sleep, heart rate etc for upto a week. It is intended to be used a week prior to your appointments, presumably so you can bombard your doctor with the aforesaid minutiae. I also liked the Moodscope idea – you can go to the Moodscope website and play a game, and your reponses to the game are used to gauge your mood. I can imagine how useful that could be to people who might be prone to depression or who want to chart what external stresses produce what reactions in them.

I haven’t used any of the apps or gadgets mentioned in the article, so I’m just reacting at a very surface level to the idea behind the product/service. And your mileage may, of course, vary.

Check it out here.

Data Security in the Age of Self-logged Health

Posted on August 29, 2011 I Written By

Priya Ramachandran is a Maryland based freelance writer. In a former life, she wrote software code and managed Sarbanes Oxley related audits for IT departments. She now enjoys writing about healthcare, science and technology.

Over at EMR and EHR I have a post going about the self-logging trend, in which people log their medical and other observations on a regular basis. I’m fascinated by the trend, but as an IT person, I shudder at the data nightmares this movement will leash if it becomes widespread.

Quantified Self, a major web hub for self-trackers, has posts on monitoring devicest hat can measures the vitals of people up to 10 meters away, and microsensor embedded mindfulness pills that transmit data to your phone when ingested.

So if someone steals my smartphone, does it mean that not only can s/he spam-text all my friends, but s/he can access all my health logs and PHRs that only my HIPAA compliant provider’s office and EMR systems were supposed to get their hands on?

Indeed, a news story in Med City News says that physical theft, not hacking, is the major concern for mobile storage devices. It’s far easier to flick an iPhone lying on somebody’s desk than to devote the brain- or computing power needed to hack into an EHR system from a reputable vendor.

Med City News reports that during the period from 2009-2011, there were 116 cases of data breaches involving at least 500 patient records (breaches that exposed fewer than 500 records were not included). Physical loss of devices accounted for a whopping 60% of security breaches.

As the Med City News piece notes:

HIPPA violations aren’t happening in the cloud. Rather, they’re happening in the doctor’s office, hospital IT closets, cars, subways, and homes.

Think about how much more this problem can be compounded if health logging becomes practise du jour?

Bottomline: Self-tracking may yet revolutionize healthcare, but could we as individuals potentially jeopardize our own data security? Possibly. It might be a fad among tech geeks but it needs some thinking through from an EMR/EHR perspective.