Personal Health Record on the Phone?
Dear Ms. Smartphone: When we went to visit our newborn granddaughter, my wife and I were stopped at the hospital’s check-in. They expected to see the TDAP vaccine record on our phones. I am up to date on both the vaccine and the phone’s operating system. But I don’t keep a personal health record on the phone. I didn’t think ahead to do that. So, I went back home and took a picture of the vaccine record. Truly a hassle. Theo
Dear Theo: I’m sorry for the hassle you experienced, but you are not the first to be stopped at the epicenter of Epic record keeping (Epic is the company that has transformed medical records). In principle, your medical center has your personal health record, aka, the chart, in one place, and you could access it through a web site, not on an app. But it would still be a hassle. At the hospital gate, you would have to be current with passwords, go through two-factor authentication, and hope the information was up to date.
The picture is changing rapidly. Smartphones are already used for scheduling, online consultations with video, sending prescriptions, and follow-up notes and procedures. This may surprise you, but when you use a telehealth platform, ChatAI may be working in the background. Some medical providers are testing artificial intelligence to handle routine communications. Others are using “the tool”, as they call it, to formulate suggestions or responses for medical questions. You asked about record keeping. The company that designs these systems (e.g. EPIC) is surely seeing inroads into personal health records on our phones. They may have some competition!
A Multitude of Apps:
Medical providers like Aetna or Cigna Health provide their own proprietary apps. Of course, that can get confusing if you see different providers and your records are not in one place. I have personally found that if I get a booster shot at my pharmacy they have a difficult time updating the master record. Most of the time they do not update it at all. An unresolved issue will be how we, the patients, makes corrections when the record is incorrect or dated. Today it would take undue patience and hours on the phone to a nameless bureaucracy to make a change.
If you have an Apple phone, you’ll notice that there is a telehealth app already installed! You cannot delete it from the phone but you can hide it from the home screen. When you log into it for the first time it will prompt you for the name of your medical provider, or search for hospitals and health networks nearby (assuming location service is turned on). If your medical center has an agreement with Apple, it will download your medical records. Case solved?!
In principle, Apple Health and similar apps should help subscribers take better care of themselves and stay healthier. The Apple Health app can also connect with fitness trackers, the Apple Watch and other devices that monitor exercise regimes, heart rate blood pressure and more. A specialist doesn’t have to review this information- a version of a Chat AI can do this instead. The bot can offer encouragement, suggest alternatives, or call-out danger signs that are sent to the medical provider, on file, of course. Given, all this requires high levels of trust using an app created by a big tech company.
Meanwhile, Health Connect, for Google phones, promises to combine data from fitness and health app connections to display on a single dashboard. Perhaps if there’s another grandchild in the making, or you plan some international travel that requires vaccination records, you might be logging into either of these services. During the Covid pandemic, online record keeping got a real shot in the arm (excuse the pun). A number of large companies like IBM, Salesforce and Microsoft got contracts to help people electronically track the number and type of doses they received. But there’s a difference between moving around a single piece of paper with the Covid record and ferrying around your full medical chart.