Health goes digital

In a world gone digital, the health care industry remains hopelessly analog. Every office and hospital backroom is literally stuffed with file folders, and crammed with loose papers covered in mostly illegible handwritten notes.

I have no idea what information of mine is out there. I grew up in Toronto, went to university in Nova Scotia, lived in Banff for one winter, and have been in Whistler for nine and a half years now where I’ve visited two different clinics, been to the health care centre a number of times, and have probably seen about a dozen different doctors. I have one specialist in Burnaby I’m seeing for my sinuses, the third specialist I’ve seen in about 12 years.

It’s fair to say that any doctor I deal with only sees a part of my medical puzzle, as pieces of it are literally strewn across the country. Only a doctor in Whitecourt, Alberta could know that I got Beaver Fever in ‘97 while tree planting. Only a doctor in Halifax knows that I got three concussions over a single season of playing rugby badly. I can’t even remember the name of the first doctor who operated on my sinuses in Toronto, removing a tiny sliver of bone that was knocked out of place playing basketball in a high school gym class and that later caused an infection.

I’m not even that sure of my blood type, or what happened to the slight heart murmur that some doctor detected about 18 years ago when I was being cleared to play high school football. I may also be allergic to penicillin, but I’m not completely certain.

To me it makes sense to pull all of my disparate health information together into a single, easily transferable, web-based health file. Health Canada can store it, encrypt it, and make the information available to all the health care providers in the world. Any doctor I visit would have instant access to all of my personal medical details, and I wouldn’t have to spend the first five minutes of any meeting with a new doctor answering the same questions.

The only negative aspect of digitizing health data is the issue of security and patient privacy, but I personally don’t really care what personal information is out there. I have nothing to hide, and most of us have nothing to be embarrassed about. Canadian law ensures that I can get care and insurance even if I do have pre-existing conditions that would disqualify me in the U.S. And let’s face it, if a hacker out there really wants to know that Andrew Mitchell had a mole removed from his back sometime in 1998, then he or she is welcome to the information. Go nuts.


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