Friday, July 4, 2008

Internet - Maine Notes: A Biggerer Idea for Microsoft, Digitizing Patient Stories as the Basis for Personal Health Records

Kennebunkport, Maine - On June 30 the Boston Globe announced Microsoft is seeking big new ideas. To create these big new ideas; Microsoft is erecting a big new building to be known as the Boston Concept Development Center next to MIT. The Center aims to develop new ideas to compete with Google, its arch rival who at the moment is eating its lunch in the search engine industry.

As I read the newspaper account of Microsoft’s big new building and its search for big new ideas, I thought of Dr. Seuss and his book The Lorax, in which this passage appears,

For your information, I’m figuring
on biggering

It’s apparent Microsoft, already the biggerest of them
all in the Internet space, plans to get biggerer by doing battle with Google in the Personal Health Records (PHR) space. And a biggerer space it promises to be. There are 300 million Americans, 125 million with chronic disease, and roughly 100 million personal computers, most with broad band access, and everybody, sick or well, has a personal health story to tell. PHRs is a very biggerer idea.

Well, for Microsoft, I have an even biggerer idea - an idea that makes its big PHR idea even biggerer. I recommend Microsoft think biggerer in this way. Every American - old and young, well and ill, healthy and unhealthy - has a
personal story about their health to tell. We all do.

These stories will form the essence of PHRs. But Microsoft needs two things to turn these personal tales into PHR realities - simple, easy way for people to tell their stories; and two, a structured way to convert the stories into Microsoft software so the stories can be continually updated.

Fullfilling these two goals is where the Instant Medical History IMH) comes into play. Over the last 15 to 20 years, which is, of course, eternity in Internet time,. Drs. Allen Wenner, a family physician and Internet entrepreneur in Columbia, Sourth Carolina, and his sidekick, Dr, John Bachman, head of primary care at Mayo in Rochester,. have been developing, applying, and perfecting the IMH.

The IMH software has been used by ten of thousands of clinicians in the trenches. It allows patients to tell their stories before seeing the doctor by answering a series of questions based on their chief compliant, current illness (or lack of same), age, and gender. Guided by clinical algorism, anybody can usually tell their health stories in 10 to 15 minutes.

The end product is a clinical narrative containing the essential elements contributing to their health status with the pertinent health data. The patient can take this narrative home with them after leaving the doctor's office. Both patients and doctors can subsequently add to the story, adding new findings and test results and adding to the record.

Patient story telling, and physicians adding to the story, may seem overly simplistic. But let us not forget the story of mankind and of medicine is nothing more than compilations of individual stories.


Robert Weisman, "Microsoft Seeks New Big Idea in Cambridge: Creates New Unit Aimed at Innovation, Boston Globe, June 30, 2008.

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