Monday, July 19, 2010

Using DropBox as your Personal Health Record (PHR)

Much has been said about the amazing new uses one can find for their DropBox. From setting yourself free from the risk of losing your USB thumb drive and effortlessly syncing and backing up your photos, to “15 Awesome Dropbox Tips and Tricks,” DropBox has found many uses for the free 2GB of cloud storage. One new use that is emerging is that of a Personal Health Record, or PHR. The Obama administration is investing billions in electronic health records and many startup companies are hoping to get part of that stimulus by creating PHR and other electronic health records (HER) systems. Google, Microsoft and Dossia have emerged as leaders in the PHR/HER arena with their Google Health and Microsoft HealthVault. These tools synch with many other online health sites like Livestrong’s Calorie and workout tracker or your local pharmacy. However, you still have to spend the time scanning and uploading doctors’ notes and test results into your online account. Personally I feel that if I am already scanning all paper notes and test results into my computer, I want to have more direct and personal control over them. With DropBox I can easily place all PDF versions of my medical records into folders for each provider. The files sync automatically with DropBox and I can access them from any computer in the world as well as my iPhone (through the DropBox app). It is not 100% clear if storing your medical records in DropBox is HIPPA compliant. It looks like most of the requirements have been met but an argument can be made that one requirement is still missing is private keys, so that the DropBox team does not have access to the files if you need support. Either way, for personal use, one does not need to follow HIPPA, rather only if your provider wanted to use DropBox as your EHR might they run into problems. Still, this does not mean you cannot share your medical records with physicians, as it would be similar to using email to forward a note or test result. For now, and for lack of a better option, I find it very easy to use DropBox as my PHR and to have access to all my medical records on the go, and no matter where I go.

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