Personal health data 2.0

Having had to consult my doctor, yesterday, due to an infection, I recalled a small discovery I made a few weeks ago of how the internet have given me very easy access to my personal health record with just a few clicks with the mouse. From the data I can confirm that I was alive when I was born, that I have been quite good at going to see my dentist on a regular basis and I have gotten get a sense of what I cost the Danish Health System every time I contact my general practitioner via email.

As a Danish citizen I can through a simple login at sundhed.dk (health.dk) and borger.dk (citizen.dk) get access to all kinds of health related data, which the system have registered through the years – or actually my entire life. The first registered event is “one live-born child”. Although obvious, there is something very comforting in being registered as live-born. Hereafter follows the (actually very few) hospitalizations I have had through the years and for the last nine years also all my consultations with my general practitioner, dentist, prescriptive medicine etc. The data is quite detailed with an indicative diagnosis for each consultation and the cost. As citizen in a country where health care is free (covered by my high taxes though) it is interesting to see what it actually costs to go see my doctor (17,5 Euro) – or even to give him a call (3.5 Euros).

The website also gives me nice overview of my medical history and highlights which years were ‘sicker’ than others.

And on an interactive timeline I can adjust the time and focus e.g. on my health from for example the age of 6 to 10 (although this age is not particular interesting since I apparently was a very healthy child).

Quite fascinating and good entertainment to look at. Al though I can’t interact with the data, my doctor or with the Danish health authorities and therefore not really can justify labelling this as Personal Health Data 2.0, then I do believe that this could play a significant role for public health. For example I can keep track of when I last went to the dentist for an annual check-up (still on the to-do-list for 2011). I can print my medical history and take it with me if I for example go abroad and need to refer to it or I can look back and find out when I had my last tetanus shoot, to find out if it should be renewed.

As can be seen from the annual overview above it seems like I didn’t have any interaction with the Danish health system in 2006 and 2007. The explanation is that I during these years lived in Switzerland and that my health record can therefore be tracked in a different system (which in this case I assume would be my health insurance company). Living in a globalised world it would however be great if I could import my data into one file. Imagine having complete access to my full medical history. Perhaps there could even be a user function were I could register all the things that doesn’t take me past my doctor. I could register when I have a cold, the flue, back pains…. it could even be through an app on my iPhone…. Am not sure what it would be useful for, but in the longer term I know from my public health background that data collected consistently over years provides basis for very interesting research indeed.

Perhaps these applications already exists and surely all the problems associated with self reported data will also challenge any later analysis done on such data, but in a longer perspective it could be interesting. At least I have found it useful and fun to, through my newly discovered health data access, go exploring in my own health and try to make sense of it retrospectively.

4 thoughts on “Personal health data 2.0

  1. Gerardo

    Ms. Bjerglund,

    The kind of access to your personal health data that you refer is quite remarkable. It certainly sets a standard in terms of information transparency and convenience regarding health files. Importantly, it allows for the portability of your own information without the hassle of requesting them from the administration. However, I still fail to see how this could play a significant role for public health research, as I understood you imply. Nordic countries are famous for keeping detailed records (an Epidemiologist´s paradise, they were called) and made them available for research before this. Furthermore, the kind of healthcare costs that you report (e.g. 17.5 Euros for an appointment) are very likely subsidized government-listed costs that would mislead the average Dane about the true costs that his/her healthcare use entails. But making your own medical records easily available for you is overall a great idea, and I hope it would extend to other european countries.

    Sanchez

  2. Not being an expert on health economy myself, I do however agree with you that the costs are not representative for what true cost of the health care provided is. I also agree that making the costs available to the individual patients probably does not have much significance when it comes to the broader public health. But making peoples individual health data so easily accessible could in the longer term play a role in Public Health, I believe. Although we (at least the Danes) depend on the national health services and believe that the state has a responsibility to keep its population in good health, health is also our own concern and responsibility – especially when it comes to health prevention. Being able to go back and track when you last time saw the doctor due to migraine problems, when you last went to the dentist etc. can in a bigger picture play a role in our own health awareness. This awareness can of course result in changed health behaviour for both the better and for the worse and take many forms. Or perhaps it will make no difference at all. (at this stage very few Danes seem aware that they have this easy access to their health data)

    Coming from a background in health data and health information systems I am however convinced that data is power and that to some people having this easy access to their own data, can influence their reflections on their own health. If later it becomes possible to link this data to other kinds of health information a whole new world could open it self up which could be used in health interventions.

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