Recently I started a personal experiment based on a simple question – what would happen if I started to track everything I could about my health including my diet, exercise, sleep and overall state of mind? Could I use this information to guide myself towards a healthier lifestyle? Could I draw insights that I could use to ultimately change my behaviour for the better?
The concept here is not particularly new. People have been counting calories and fitness enthusiasts have been logging their exercise results for decades. Never before, though, have so many devices existed that allow people to monitor themselves. Everything from fitness watches, wireless scales, blood pressure and heart rate monitors and even sophisticated sleep monitors – all of them now available at a reasonable cost to the average person.
So I’ve embarked on a personal challenge to track as much as I can about my health and activities. Here’s my experience so far:
- My GPS-enabled watch is easy and fun to use and gives me great insight into my runs. The feedback I get from it motivates me to improve
- There is nothing like tracking what you eat to better understand your diet. The feedback (assuming one tracks intake accurately and completely) is invaluable. But I personally found that tracking my dietary intake became painful after a few weeks. It takes a lot of time!
- Some data simply doesn’t change very much and measuring frequently isn’t all that useful. My blood pressure, for instance, is relatively stable, so I likely won’t continue tracking this as closely.
- The ability to see all of the data in a more integrated way would be useful, but currently I haven’t come across an application that allows this holistic view.
- Despite the significant advances in sophistication and ease of use of the underlying technology, self-monitoring is a lot of work because it produces a lot of disparate data.
My conclusion on this personal experiment… periodic self-monitoring targeted at some specific end (for example, how much sodium did I ingest last week?) is useful. Constant self-monitoring – not so much!
Do you do any self-monitoring? What has your experience been?
Over the past twenty years much of our world has been digitized – from music, TV and movies to newspapers, books and magazines to banking, shopping and dating. Curiously, health records are one of the remaining omissions from large-scale digitization.
That said, here’s a little known fact… Did you know that MedicAlert membershad digital health records in the early 1970’s?
Canadian MedicAlert Foundation was, in fact, the pioneer in bringing computerized health records to Canadians, and with over 1.1 million members, is now the largest non-governmental database of electronic health records in this country. Plus it’s the only system that allows the immediate electronic transfer of medical information throughout the world.
Members have electronic access to their personal MedicAlert medical profile (with information about conditions, medications, etc) plus emergency and doctor contact information that can be updated and changed as often as needed. Better still, this profile can also be shared with GPs and any other healthcare professionals.
I am personally thankful of the MedicAlert family – members, staff and volunteers – who had the foresight over 40 years ago to pioneer the use of electronic health records. They have ensured that Canadians of all age groups and walks of life have a service they can rely on to manage their health information and save their life when it hangs in the balance.
I am a MedicAlert member and wear a bracelet that reads “No known medical condition”. This isn’t an unusual inscription, but some people find it surprising. Isn’t the MedicAlert ID and service only for people with ‘conditions’?
The short answer is no. I use the MedicAlert service to speak for me when I can’t speak for myself. Emergency responders and emergency room physicians have told us that this information is useful because it allows them to quickly proceed with emergency treatment by ruling out any pre-existing conditions that need to be considered.
As well, I often walk and run alone and my MedicAlert bracelet serves as basic ID. I have the confidence of knowing that with a quick call to our 24/7 hotline, I will be identified and my family members will be contacted.
By the way, I do have ‘medical conditions’ (don’t we all have unique medical footprints?) — but mine are not essential to communicate in an emergency. This info is noted on my MedicAlert medical profile along with my family and physician contacts – which, by the way, I can access electronically and update anytime I need to.
How often should I update my MedicAlert medical profile?
It’s a common question that members ask me every week. The simple answer is that you should update your profile whenever material changes occur. What are material changes? This isn’t always so easy to figure out on your own. Essentially, these changes are often preceded by a healthcare visit – to a GP, clinic or pharmacy.
Get in the habit of asking at the end of your visit… “Does this change in information warrant a change on my MedicAlert profile?” If you are unsure, we strongly encourage you to give us a call (1.800.668.1507) and take the opportunity to review your full profile, at least annually. However, for those living with complex and changing conditions / medications, a more regular check-in (even on a monthly basis) would be more appropriate.
Remember that your non-medical information – your personal contact details, your healthcare team (GP, specialist or other) and emergency contacts – are important to keep current as well.
Put us on speed dial! Make updating your record part of your regular health and wellness routine and you will ensure that your MedicAlert membership will fully protect you when you need it the most.
“Focusing on accuracy is key when discussing electronic records. If data is missing or out-of-date, it can not only be useless, but harmful. With the ease at which data accumulates, it is important for a model of shared responsibility to be utilized by those who use electronic records, and the patients who stand to gain from their existence. Fortunately, technology could enable patients to update their records as needed while allowing paramedics access not only to medical histories, allergies and previous health care contacts, but also to quality indicators that indicate “up-to-dateness”. Let’s use the well-known MedicAlert bracelet as an example of where the future could lead…
When Canadian MedicAlert Foundation began providing services to Canadians in 1961, the service was straightforward: body-worn ID (the bracelet) linked emergency responders with the patient-provided medical information, initially captured on an index card (!) and later on an electronic file. The fundamental mechanics of the system have changed little in 51 years. But now, with a dizzying array of applications which allow people to store their personal health information, what could medical alerting services look like in 2020?
There will be no shortage of cool technology — the proliferation of smartphones and tablet computers coupled with near-field communication technology may aid in the electronic transfer of patient information. Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) Tags could help to quickly identify those in need. One day, a paramedic could scan a barcode with a smartphone and have instant access to up-to-date medical histories, prescriptions and deadly allergies.
But the most powerful potential change is simple: that Canadians become more engaged in the management of their own health information; that they really own their health information rather than relying on the ‘system’ to manage information of their behalf.”
… The above is an excerpt from the article “Electronic Health Records: A Shared Responsibility” that was co-authored with Blair Bigham (advanced care paramedic) and featured in Canadian Paramedicine. To read the full article click here.