Dr. Joe Cohen isn't exactly what you'd expect when someone says they're about to introduce you to a Pediatrician. As a father of three in the middle of an Android-focused geek event like the Big Android Meat and Greet, the snarky, grinning, friendly individual standing in front of me — with Google Glass on his face, a Moto 360 on his wrist, and a vape in his hand — was certainly not like any Pediatrician I had ever met. Dr. Joe was at this event to talk about a software platform he's been working on, and his team had created a series of software challenges to both participate in the hackathon aspect of the event and help demystify the nature of secure medical information on mobile devices.
It turns out that last part is incredibly important, and in carrying the torch for his own platform it would appear Dr. Joe is well on his way to advancing the state of digital medical record keeping for patients and doctors alike.
"99% of patients walk in and tell you exactly what's wrong with them. Now, I have even more time to listen." - Dr. Joe Cohen
There's a general stigma applied to medical data in general, and when you talk about making that information digital in a world where data breaches and login vulnerabilities happen on an almost weekly basis, it's not hard to imagine a certain degree of hesitation at the thought of making all of your medical information digital. You can't go far in the medical world before seeing great big red flags with HIPAA written across them anyway, and the legal complications that follow even accidental data violations can be disastrous. The scale and severity associated with these concerns is a big part of why Google Health failed to get off the ground a couple of years ago, and why Google an Apple both are trying again with platforms like ResearchKit. Addressing the issue at scale is incredibly important, and as Google and Apple focus on the medicine from a research perspective, Dr. Joe and KiddoEMR are focusing on the doctor's office itself.
When we think about the information patients need, it's notes to get excused from school, shot records, tests that I send you out for. I have patients to symptom diaries, and they're bringing them to me on paper or recording them with their phones. I want to get that information from my phone to the chart, and I'm not going to do it by plugging everyone's phone into my computer. We have things like Near Field Communication, peer to peer communication, geofence networking and server caching, that kind of stuff really changes the game.
It's not easy to solve a problem people don't know they have, and a lot of that has to do with patients generally accepting the medical process for what it is. As Dr. Joe explained during our chat, there's no reason a patient can't come in for an appointment and leave with the doctor's note and information about their prescription on their phone. There's no reason he as a Pediatrician can't quickly match the patient's insurance with the right medicine on his own device right in front of the patient and make it clear that he's a quick message away if there are any problems. While you're unlikely to find every doctor willing to accept an NFC beam with a video of a seizure or a secure messaging platform where you describe your symptoms before even coming into the office, that's the environment Dr. Joe not only sees as a benefit to all of the technology around him, but has implemented as a replacement to existing EMR services in his own practice.
As cool as it is to see a medical professional downright excited by the application of technology in his day to day, we had some important follow-up questions. During his presentation before the hackathon portion of the event began, one of the biggest things Dr. Joe addressed was how to think about HIPAA and software. As with all things data related, the balance of security and usability is where things get interesting. Treating data on your phone or tablet like physical data, and thinking critically about how that information is safe in both environments, is a huge part of keeping things secure in this situation. Encrypted communication tools, data that syncs to the phone when you want to view something but not store anything locally, and keeping the platform protected by its own security tools offer everything necessary to be safe, and according to Dr. Joe it's easy enough that most of his parents are already comfortable with the platform.
It's also important to make sure such a data-focused service is something the doctors actually want to use. Communicating with other doctors across a single platform without needing to translate for the patient, being selective about the data that patients have access to, and storing the information in a secure yet platform agnostic way are all sticking points for Dr. Joe and his platform. KiddoEMR has been designed and tested as a tool to replace the existing expensive EMRs and a way to move away from paper entirely, and while Dr. Joe's focus for obvious reasons is children the larger goal is to make it useful for everyone.
The overall goal for a product like KiddoEMR is about as interesting as world domination on a software level tends to be, but the truly fascinating aspect of this product is its face. Dr. Joe has created an environment where every kind of smartphone user — from the casual user who isn't overly concerned with what version of the software they are on to, well, people like us — can take an active and helpful role in our own healthcare. Even if KiddoEMR itself isn't the future — which from what I've seen would be a real shame — on a technical level this is the kind of interaction I would love to have with my own doctor. It's hard to imagine most people feeling differently.
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