The DIY Electronic Medical Record

My love life hit a major speed bump last Tuesday night. As I climbed into bed that fateful evening, I had decided to slip into something a little, um, more comfortable: a Zeo head strap thingy. 

For those unaware, Zeo has developed a sleep system to monitor and improve your sleep patterns. The good folks behind the product had sent me a complimentary device and I was anxious to take it for a spin. The setup was smooth and the experience of sleeping with a headband on was not as strange as I’d anticipated, despite the heckling from my wife.

But, then something interesting happened.

As part of setting up my Zeo I connected it to the HealthGraph API. This is something I’ve done with a number of devices and services including my WiThings scale, FitBit pedometer, and my Runkeeper app.  As I logged into Runkeeper.com the next day, I was struck by what an interesting patchwork of my health data was starting to build there. 

I had a record of my daily weight, my exercising (catalogued by type), my walking, my calories burned and now, with the addition of Zeo, my nightly sleep patterns. All of this data had been passively collected with little to no manual input required from me. Total investment in this personal sensor network was in the range of a couple hundred dollars. And, as I rummaged through my data it began to hit me that what I’ve really been doing is creating my own DIY Electronic Medical Record. 

Think about it. When you go to visit a doctor each appointment starts with getting weighed, getting your blood pressure taken and checking your heartbeat. All of these sensors are now available (some in the Runkeeper store). I could essentially skip this step by printing out my own data or giving my doctor access to all of the data I’ve been collecting.

I know it seems like a stretch today, but this is the direction we are heading. Just in the last year we’ve seen a stunning array of new, cheap, passive senors move into production or hit the market. New manufacturing processes, commodity hardware, open source software and ubiquitous online distribution are driving cost out of every part of the historical supply chain. 

As more of these hit the market we’ll be able to fill the incomplete pieces of our patchwork of health data. More importantly, we’ll be able to build services and applications that help make this data meaningful and actionable in ways that improve our health, wellness and happiness.

And, as more of these devices, apps and services emerge, I’m confident that the Electronic Medical Record we’ve been promised for decades will become a reality thanks to these bottoms up, DIY efforts.

PS- in case you’ve been sleeping under a rock, I should disclose here that OATV is an investor in, and unabashed cheerleader of, Fitnesskeeper the company behind the Runkeeper app and HealthGraph API.