An AppStore for Health - Electronic Health Records for the iPhone Generation
The current state of affairs
There have been lots of failed attempts at getting consumers to use electronic health records. Google Health was probably the most visible one, but there have been many many others. Many of the early online health sites created their own online electronic health record systems, in the hope that people would use them to store their health data and then be “locked-in” to that site.
The problem with those solutions is that they all expected you to manually enter in your blood test results, upload your X-ray’s, enter in your glucose levels, your blood pressure measurements, and more. And the only benefit they provided was to store this data for you, in case you needed it in the future. And perhaps they would show you some graphs of data over time.
These are examples of products requiring a high effort for low reward.
The reason they needed you to enter in the data yourself is because your health data exists in thousands of separate, siloed, computer systems that are not interconnected. Hospitals are not connected to your doctors clinic which is not connected to the lab or to the imaging center. Even within individual hospitals the computer systems are often not interconnected.
In the USA, HMO’s like Kaiser are making progress at integrating the hospitals and clinics and labs within their umbrella, but that doesn’t help everyone else, and it doesn’t even help people that are transferring into or out of that HMO.
What people really want
A much better solution would be a system that was integrated with all of your healthcare providers, and automatically sucked in the data without you having to do anything. Your X-rays would be uploaded from the Imaging center, the blood tests results would come from the lab, etc.
This would solve the pain of having to manually enter in your health data, but it still only solves part of the problem.
What you still need is a way to make sense of the data. For that, the solution is to create secure API’s that would allow app developers to write software that could analyze your personal data, and then do interesting things with it. Correlate your lab results with your Fitbit, with your weight, with your diet. Compare them with publicly available data. Find insights from your 23andme results. And much much more.
What we really need is a health app store, where we could purchase apps that crunch through our personal data and provide us with actionable information.
The only way to get large, entrenched organizations like hospitals and insurance companies to open up their databases (even to the patients themselves!) is by government regulation. There are simply too many entrenched interests and fiefdoms within these organizations, that getting them to voluntarily open up their databases would be next to impossible.
The government needs to pull together a group of people that know how to build this kind of thing, and have them specify a system for exchanging the data securely. Then it needs to require all healthcare organizations that hold patients data to make it available to any patient that wants access to it. Steps in this direction are being made, but there is still a long long way to go.
The apps, and the appstore? Thats the easy part. Once the data is accessible, entrepreneurs and investors will take care of it. This is a huge, multi-billion dollar opportunity, and there will be no lack of takers.