A Piece of Paper as a Personal Health Record


GodinI live in a world looking for digital solutions to some of health’s biggest problems.  I love watching this all play out.

So yesterday Seth Godin tells the world that a piece of paper could save your life.  He’s advocating that everyone write down their history and carry it around with them.  Yes, your personal health record on a piece of 8 1/2 by 11 inch paper.  As much as it kills me to admit it, there’s a certain amount of wisdom to this.  And not novel, really.  Patients of mine have been doing this for years.

I see loads of chronically ill children.  What’s remarkable is that there’s no way for me to easily get key elements of their child’s history into the EMR.  Despite the tens of millions  of dollars spent on EPIC, it can’t be done in a way that’s practical.  Sure we could scan their paper summary as a media file, but if you know anything about EPIC, it is probably easier if the patient just kept the paper in their wallet.  What’s more discouraging is that if the child came from another institution with a fancy, competing EMR, it still couldn’t be done very easily.

And I don’t need pie charts, reams of data, exhaustive diaries, books, ‘complete medical records’ or thumb drives.  Just the facts to start with (QS data may be important later).  I might even suggest that patients try to limit their summary to one page, focusing on the major issues.  Physical constraints force to think about what’s important.

What would be really cool would be a nicely done, thoughtful sketchnote graphically detailing key elements of a patient’s history.

It’s remarkable that despite how far we’ve come it still comes down to a piece of paper.  We have such a long way to go.