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Personally Controlled Health Records: Are They the Next Big Thing?

Posted Nov 18 2008 12:16am

Personally Controlled Health Records: Are They the Next Big Thing?: " In the mid-1990s, at the dawn of the internet revolution, a small band of researchers hatched a plan to put health care directly into the hands of patients. According to their vision, people would turn on their computers and have access to a virtual caretaker—a set of software programs that would collect and store all their health records in a central place. The system, aptly called Guardian Angel, would follow a patient from doctor to doctor, interpret medical symptoms and lab results, manage treatment, and even offer medical advice.

Patients may become the main drivers of the personally controlled health record movement. “Individuals are having to care for their own health and curate their own information in ways that they’ve never had to face before,” said Mandl. The burden may become especially great for people with ailing elderly parents. They may be the early adopters of such a system along with parents of young disease-prone children.

Once set in place, personally controlled health records could open the door to a flood of business enterprises, such as diagnostic and monitoring services. “Nobody expected the personal computer,” said Mitch Kapor, developer of the blockbuster business application Lotus 1-2-3, in his keynote speech. “It represented a fundamental shift of power from people inside the computing industry to entrepreneurial outsiders like myself who had no cache.” The rise of the internet was also an unexpected phenomenon, he said. Like the personal computer, it succeeded because it was built on democratic principles—openness, interoperability, and decentralization. “If you give patients control of their data, it will be very empowering to them as individuals and also to the aggregate,” he said. “Build it and they will come.”

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