Who do you think owns your medical file?
Hospitals and doctors’ offices are traditionally the keepers of personal medical records in the U.S. But now there’s a movement to give people more access to their own medical information.
Washington and Oregon are each developing what are known as online “health record banks.” Those allow people to create and maintain their own medical files.
Correspondent Doug Nadvornick reports on one such project underway in Spokane.
Jac Davies is on a mission to take control of her health. She’s exercising more. She’s eating better. She’s lost some weight. And now she’s keeping track of her medical particulars on Google Health.
|Spokane resident Jac Davies checks her personal medical account on Google Health.|
Jac Davies: “This is my unique account. And I just enter my password and my e-mail account. I’m using the wrong password there. And what it does is it sets you up with what’s called a Google Health profile.”
In this profile, Davies has entered basic information like her height, weight, blood type and allergies.
Jac Davies: “I’ve also entered medications and you can see it shows certain things on here, like calcium.”
The fact that Davies has a Google Health account isn’t unique. Anyone can create their own for free. What makes this different is that her pharmacist and her doctor can also transfer information into her account.
They can do that because Davies is enrolled in one of three pilot projects designed to develop these personal health record banks in Washington. The others are in Cashmere, in the north central part of the state, and in Bellingham.
Davies says she’s using her account to pull together all the various parts of her medical records.
Jac Davies: “All of that is in different pockets in different places. And some of it I have. And some of it I would have to go through a lot of hoops to get.”
Online personal medical records are an up-and-coming trend in health care, according to Richard Onizuka, the health policy director for the Washington Health Care Authority.
Richard Onizuka: “There isn’t a place that aggregates all your information, your medical information. You go to each provider and you have independent sets of information at different places. So we think that’s a good role for consumers to do is to aggregate their information.”
Washington and Oregon are among a handful of states that are testing personal health record banks. Oregon is building a central repository of health records that, at first, only people on Medicaid would be allowed to access.
Washington has chosen certain regions for these records. In Spokane, for example, three health care providers are working with a local medical technology company to give their patients access to their files.
One of the three is the Rockwood Clinic. Dr. Glen Stream is Rockwood’s medical director for clinical information services. He says this is another avenue for doctors to talk to their patients.
Dr. Glen Stream: “And tell them, ‘you’re overdue for this test’ or ‘you’re overdue for this treatment.’ And engage them to come in and have the care that is in their best interests and, hopefully in the long run, will improve both efficiency and quality of care.”
Stream says, for now, doctors will only send lab results and records related to medications, allergies and vaccinations. If all goes well, doctors could someday expand the amount of information they send to personal accounts.
He says, for now, Rockwood is in the early stages of a system that will evolve.
Dr. Glen Stream: “Really, the project is looking for people that sort of like being on the leading edge of things and are willing to accept the limitations in the hope that they then are going to provide input to a more robust system in the future.”
In that sense, Jac Davies is the perfect candidate. She’s motivated to stay healthy and keep on top of her care, even if it’s a lot of work for her to do that.
She looks forward to the day when her personal online account gets easier to maintain and becomes just like an electronic version of her paper medical file.
Jac Davies: “I would like to be able to go into my doctor’s office and sit down, ‘cause, more and more, the doctor’s office, especially here in Spokane, they have a computer in the room with them and they’re entering information into it. It would be great if I could just say, ‘Look, let’s go look at my Google Health account and I can show you everything.’”
That day may not be far away.