Your Medical History on a Stick

Thinking it over, my last post didn’t really do justice to those USB flash drives specially designed to let you carry your medical records with you. (In Germany they call them “Sticks,” while a cell phone is called a “Handy” … pragmatic language)

Considering that we PWDs are constantly told to carry our full medical records along with us when we travel, the idea of putting it all on a tiny little stick is actually pretty interesting.

And my fears of privacy breach may be somewhat unfounded, according to a number of manufacturers, who claim the drives contain no big secrets, i.e. “there’s more vital information contained in your wallet.” The argument goes that YOU decide what information to include or omit, and passwords or other deterrents may just slow down access to your data in case of an emergency. Not sure I’m sold on that concept. So you too may be relieved to learn that at least one of the leading products offers built-in safeguards so that not just anybody can download your “whole enchilada.”

In case you’re not familiar, a few leading brands appear to be:

* E-HealthKey from Medic Alert – Developed by SanDisk and sold by the nonprofit organization thatEhealthkey developed the MedicAlert bracelet 50 years ago. You just pop the (waterproof) drive into any computer and a screen flashes with your medical condition to alert emergency room personnel. But beyond that initial screen, any medical information you enter on this drive is encrypted. It runs $49.95, plus $35 enrollment fee, if you’re not already a MedicAlert member. For an additional $20-a-year, MedicAlert will upload your data to its server so you have a backup.

The user-friendly software can apparently also plot your weight, cholesterol or anything you regularly record onto a graph, so it’s marketed as a “wellness tool” as well as a storage device.

* MedicTag – which claims to be “the original USB emergency information record” from a family-owned company in upstate New York. They cite the following advantages over MedicAlert’sMedictag238 offering: MedicTag is cheaper (retails for $39.95 with no additional fees or membership dues), and it runs on Microsoft Word rather than requiring installation of proprietary software that may well slow down access to your vital information by emergency personnel. However, it was unclear if encryption or other security measures are built in to this one.

* Med-InfoChip – developed by Dr. Carl Franzblau, chairman and professor of biochemistry at the Boston University School of Medicine, and distributed through a Florida-based company. This one boasts “plug and play software that displays your medical profile.” It runs $69.95 for a 64 MB single profile. They state that Dr. Franzblau deliberately decided not to password-protect access to viewing of records on the system.

* Portable Health Profile is a whole kit, including family health records software for your PC, two mini wallet-sized CDs, and the USB drive. This one’s from a company called Critical Access, Inc., apparently founded by a physician aiming to speed up information transfer. The package is currently on sale for $49.50, and you get a lot: the software can hold full profiles for up to 5 family members, including fingerprints and other medical images, insurance and immunization records, a Living Will, expense reports, and more. But again, no encryption or security measures, which bothers me with all this personal data they’re supposing you’ll store.

Whether or not you go for the USB drive, there are certainly some useful advantages to keeping your medical records on-line:

- Updating, sorting and searching your medical records is easier.

- Provides a single secure location where you can safely store all of your medical records without worrying about theft, fire or accidental loss.

- Disaster Preparedness, especially if you carry the USB drive on your person.

The only real disadvantage is the personal privacy issue, not to be taken lightly (See “Are Your Medical Records Everyone’s Business?“) Surely you’ve noticed how every doctor you visit makes you sign those privacy consent forms nowadays?

There’s plenty of “anxiety of individuals who believe that their privacy rights with respect to personal health information, including their genetic information, are being eroded.” If that’s how you feel about it, then putting your medical history on a stick is certainly not for you.

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15 Responses

  1. Kerri.
    Kerri. May 23, 2006 at 4:51 pm | | Reply

    I live for my little USB drive. It lives on my keychain and I jump from the desktop to the laptop with ease.

    However… that little sucker has leapt from my keychain into my purse or onto the floor of my car too often for comfort. I would be very reluctant to “stick” all my private medical information on a very lose-able format.

  2. JasonJayhawk
    JasonJayhawk May 25, 2006 at 7:28 am | | Reply

    I’m not convinced that a hospital is going to plug a USB memory stick into their computer while its owner is unable to speak.

    First off, they are going to work on the issue at hand. They will contact people identified from your wallet or other visible items on you.

    They aren’t going to start reading 64 megabytes worth of data, or even 1,024 bytes of it, from a memory card.

    Imagine if someone were to plant a virus or spyware on one of these memory sticks. That would certainly open up a basket of HIPAA.

    Simply because of the “medical” nature of these memory sticks, they cost much more than a stick you can get often for free after rebate, and can upload your own files to it. A simple text file works best — if the recipient does not have Microsoft Word, reading the .DOC file will require other means.

    While the whole idea sounds cool, the price tags on these items should cause alarm bells to go off. The best solution would be electronic medical records (EMR) for every person.

  3. Jo
    Jo May 29, 2006 at 3:57 am | | Reply

    I am seriously considering getting this to supplement the ID bracelet I already wear that has minimumal information in it.

  4. Jo's Cafe
    Jo's Cafe May 30, 2006 at 2:46 am | | Reply

    Diabetes in the News

  5. Jo's Cafe
    Jo's Cafe May 30, 2006 at 2:46 am | | Reply

    Diabetes in the News

  6. Jo's Cafe
    Jo's Cafe May 30, 2006 at 2:46 am | | Reply

    Diabetes in the News

  7. Kat2
    Kat2 May 30, 2006 at 7:22 am | | Reply

    How is it any more insecure than a wallet card in your wallet? Although I know there’s room for a lot more info on the USB drive.

  8. JasonJayhawk
    JasonJayhawk May 31, 2006 at 11:08 pm | | Reply

    Will an overworked, computer-inept ER employee really have the time to plug in a USB key drive to read your records? I doubt it. Not to mention the hospital’s corporate policies about installing non-corporate devices, which might compromise HIPAA, if spyware happens to be on that memory key…

  9. Diabetes Stop
    Diabetes Stop August 29, 2006 at 4:55 pm | | Reply

    Mi historia clinica colgada de mi cuello

    He metido en esta memoria flash, de solo 6 cms por 2 cms, mi historia clínica, certificados médicos, e informes de toda clase , incluyendo las analíticas y las gráficas de las mismas que he preparado en Excel, y me sobra muchísimo espacio
    Es la me…

  10. Kevin Hauser
    Kevin Hauser September 5, 2006 at 1:38 pm | | Reply

    I work with a company that collects, digitizes, stores and organizes all of our member’s actual medical records from the providers they list to us. Every member has 24 hour a day access online as well as each member is equipped wit ha MedeDrive. This USB drive auto loads that members Emergency Medical Information as well as contains the actual records in a password protected area of the drive. I recommend that each of you visit us at http://www.medefile.com.

  11. Jason Zauner
    Jason Zauner December 16, 2006 at 7:47 pm | | Reply

    MedicTag ( http://www.cwimedical.com/medictag.html ) provides me a peace of mind. I know that if an EMT comes to rescue my Mom, that he has her latest medical info on that stick. I got mine at http://www.cwimedical.com

  12. Mike Haud
    Mike Haud January 23, 2007 at 9:00 am | | Reply

    I just saw it on FOX News, I think its a great idea! And I agree completely that there is more personal information in your wallet. Everyone should have one of these, even if you just put your allergies on it. And if a healthcare professional does plug it in, it will save your life. I’m sure this will be the future of storing medical information, everyone is just a little paranoid right now about new technology

  13. John D.
    John D. May 21, 2007 at 5:10 pm | | Reply

    InfoVivo has the most complete emergency medical record usb flash drive and the smallest device. It fits nicely on a necklace and doesn’t get in the way during jogging etc. It also lets one print out a emergency ID card, track blood pressure, glucose levels, weight and cholesterol levels in 3D charts. It includes MD, a medical diary which and appointment book. All and everything can be printed out in an organized list. It is the easiest to use thing I have ever seen. It is out since 2001 and I don’t leave home without it. It should have been mentioned here for sure, everyone else is just a late comer.

  14. Ed R.
    Ed R. August 2, 2007 at 11:39 am | | Reply

    MedicTag http://www.medictag.com/ has a USB drive designed for your emergency information. It is not intended to be a complete medical history, but instead it is designed to hold the information you would want anyone to know about you in an emergency. Doctors, emergency contacts, existing conditions, medications, etc. This is especially useful for active seniors, care givers and the elderly, children with existing medical conditions and anyone traveling away from home.

  15. Susanne Queritas
    Susanne Queritas April 24, 2008 at 9:35 pm | | Reply

    Mine is from InfoVivo, they fittingly call it LifeSaver, because it definitely can do that. I read first about it on Medical News Today and thoise guys were right. It really does more than all the other ones I looked at. I can only suggest to check it out, once you’ve seen it, you know it’s the only one to have.
    You can get it at:
    http://www.infovivo.com
    Suzy

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