DIY medical record keeping?

Imagine, if you will, having a basic checkup without even having to go to your doctor's office.

It's not quite so extreme, but a partnership between IBM and Google makes that concept seem, perhaps, not so far-fetched. With software deveoped by IBM and Google Heath's medical record database, a patient's vital stats - heart rate, blood pressure, blood chemistry, for example - could be sent swiftly between home and the doctor's office with just the click of a button or two.

The project dovetails nicely with President Obama's pledge of $20 billion in the current economic stimulus package for improving and enabling e-medical record-keeping.

All this, of course, is concerning some about the privacy issues. How secure would the software or databases be? Who could have access to them? Current privacy laws don't allow a doctor or hospital to share a patient's medical information with anyone outside of immediate family without the patient or family's permission. The question is, what kind of privacy restrictions would be on the databases that hold the information?

Deven McGraw, director of the Center for Democracy and Technology's Health Privacy Project explained it to Tech News World thusly:

One of the gaps in the law that we know is out there, is that when these personal health record vendors exchange personal health information, they're not covered by any federal health privacy rules. Therefore the consumer needs to be that much more vigilant and understand what the privacy protections are that are in the privacy policies.

Fortunately, McGraw pointed out, the stimulus package money includes requirements that the Federal Trade and Health and Human Services commissions address the privacy issue.

If it seems difficult to sort out the immediate implications of the new technology, IBM/Google offered some concrete examples:

A busy mom can receive daily electronic updates on the health status of an aging parent who lives alone, is suffering from high blood pressure, and is on multiple medications. A traveling businessperson, who is diabetic and training for a marathon, can have a real-time discussion about her blood sugar levels and heart rate with her coach hundreds of miles away.

Now if we could just get one of those cool tricorders from Star Trek, we'd be set.

Tags:  Gadgets, medicine, DIY