By Tammie Allegro
Recently, our company offered a trial membership to a health diary website. The news was met with mixed reactions. Some instantly jumped on board and really put the new system to the test. Others logged their information and never touched it again. And, then there were others who never logged on at all. I was somewhere in the middle. I instantly started putting all my stats in just to see what my “health score” was going to be. The whole process made me wonder whether patients with chronic illness would use something like this to track their health history. But it also made me wonder whether there is concern that logging information on third-party sites could be a waste of time or even a security concern, which may be what leads some to embrace these sites and others to shun them.
With a quick Google search, I was able to find a lot of health diary options. The first was easy to locate since it was on the IG Living website. The Immune Globulin Infusion Log and Health Diary helps patients track their infusions and records how they are feeling before, during and after their infusions. The idea behind this is to help them determine the best treatment plan. For instance, if they get headaches during or after an infusion, their doctor might recommend that they pre-medicate for this symptom and slow their infusion time to make the process more tolerable. The health diary also could let their doctor know if their dosage needs to be adjusted by tracking how many good days they are having between infusions.
The second type of health diary I found was the online tracking system. People logging into these sites start by completing a health survey. From that survey, some of the programs will recommend ways for patients to improve their health through diet and exercise, while others simply recommend standard health screenings based on age. There also are tracking systems set up specifically for different health challenges. For example, the Immune Deficiency Foundation (IDF) recently announced the launch of their eHealthRecord for immune deficient patients. According to the website, “The IDF eHealthRecord is a one-of-a-kind electronic personal health record developed for individuals and families living with primary immunodeficiency diseases. It is designed for you to take control of your health information and help make your life easier. Security measures keep your records safe, secure and ready for when you need them. And, there is no cost to you or family members.”
“Ready for when you need them.” “Security measures keep your records safe.” But are they and do they always? Several years ago, Google launched its version of online health tracking called Google Health with lackluster results. Recently, it announced that it is discontinuing the program. The site is giving patients plenty of time to download their records before the program completely goes away on January 1, 2012. Users have the option of downloading information into several different formats so that it can be transferred to a personal computer or to a new health diary program. But, where does all that data go when the site closes? Google claims all user data will be deleted on January 2, 2013, but as a patient, I’d still be worried about security leaks.
No matter which route a patient goes, experts will tell them that keeping a health diary is important. They can track the medications they take, as well as any reactions they may have; list their infusion information in detail; and keep a list of all their doctors with full contact information. Diagnoses they have received also are important to track. They can even list their doctor appointments and keep a running list of questions they have for their doctor so they don’t forget any important points during an office visit.
We are living in a time when it seems like everything in life takes place online. You can date online, attend college online, bank online, research online and, now, you can track your health online. The choice is yours. What type of health diary do you keep? Would you use an online option?