Kaiser Permanente, a non-profit HMO based in California, has begun offering its Northern California members USB flash drives containing a portion of their medical records that can be carried with them on business trips and vacations.
Kaiser Permanente undertook a major computerization of their medical recordkeeping in the past few years. As a member, I can attest to that. You can book appointments online (change them, even), email your physician, order prescriptions online, etc. etc. But you can't see your medical records aside from items like test results and the like.
The $5 flash drive, available from any medical secretary at a Kaiser facility, doesn't hold all your records, but enough of them, including the member's emergency contacts, physicians, medical issues, allergies, current medications, and lab results for the past year.
The drive is, of course, encrypted. The procedure to get one is as follows:
When a member requests a USB flash drive, the medical data is downloaded to the drive from Kaiser's Electronic Medical Record while the patient waits. Once downloaded, the patient enters a password, and the drive is removed from the computer.
It must be done while the patient visits a facility, but once the drive is paid for, it can be updated any time the member visits another facility. Kaiser started testing the device last summer at its Oakland medical center, where nearly 600 flash drives were provided to members.