Wednesday, January 27, 2010

A Slave To Medical Technology?*

A few weeks ago, I took this bag of change I had to a coin counting machine. I’ve had the change for maybe a year, and figured I probably had about $70 worth. Turns out I actually had almost $160 worth of change. Change that I take out of my wallet everyday and save, because I don’t like carrying it around. Basically “found” money.

Anyway, rather than save that money, I decided to buy an IPod Touch. My aunt and a friend’s husband had both recently purchased one, and it looked pretty cool to me. It’s not something that I absolutely needed, but it only ended up costing me about $30 because of the change I had turned in.

I never thought I’d be a slave to technology, but this thing is awesome. Aside from making me more hyper-organized than I already am, the best things are useful and cheap (read $.99 or free) applications that are useful to those of us with chronic illnesses.

(Check out my pictures of screenshots from ITunes on my computer…)

I’ve downloaded a medication tracker, iMedication, which allows you to put in the name of the medication, the dosage and frequency, and the prescription number and when it is due to run out. It keeps all of your medication in a very convenient list right at your fingertips. Much better than my handwritten index card that I keep in my wallet, which has to be re-written every time a dose changes.

I’ve also downloaded MyEmergency, an application that allows you to keep all of your personal information, plus next of a kin, allergies, a list of the names of the medications you take, medical conditions, doctor details, and insurance information.

Another great application is My Pain Diary Lite (Lite as in free). This allows you to rate your pain intensity (on a scale of 1 to 10; no silly smiley faces here), the type, location, and trigger of the pain, and the remedy. I think this is a good way to more accurately keep track of flares, which I haven’t been very good at doing. It’s also good for people who keep a paper pain journal.

On the whole, I haven’t found one application in which I love all of the features, that’s why I have several separate ones. There’s also Medical Records and My Health Records, which are both free. I just downloaded those and am going to play around with them.

Obviously, there are going to be some things that won’t get completely digitized any time soon, like prescriptions and lab requisition forms. But on the whole, I’m really impressed with what’s out there, which seem especially useful for people who have complicated medical histories and health issues.

Although I guess there’s always the question of whether you really want to put all of your information in one place because 1) someone else could easily get their hands on it, 2) what happens if the IPod breaks, and 3) what if you don’t have it with you when you need it? Also, I wonder how doctors these days feel about their patients using such technologies. Do they streamline the doctor-patient encounter or make it more cumbersome?

Along with fancy IPod applications, there are a plethora of Internet sites, some more social network-y and free – like Cure Together and Medpedia - and some more practical and expensive, like Minerva.

If you know of other sites/programs that you particularly like (or don’t), leave them in the comments. I’m interested to know peoples’ experiences with technology as it relates to chronic illness. Do you partake or opt to stay away?

* I have posted about these product out of my own personal experience with them, and not because I have received compensation, financial or otherwise, from these companies.


  1. That's really cool. I've often wanted to figure out what triggers my allergies and heartburn. And i know how hard it can be to keep track of medications. So I think this was a great investment for you. Initially I would have agreed that you didn't really need it but if you can replace the constantly changing index cards in your wallet it sounds good to me! I'm a member of Kaiser Permanente in SOuthern California and the HMO has been at the forefront of digitizing the doctors office. There is a networked PC in each examination room and the doctor constantly types as we talk. When i leave they print out a summary form with date, time, symptoms, and recommended treatments like medications. For some reason medical request forms are still pen and paper and it has become really hard to speak to a live person. On the other hand they are good about returning my emails.

  2. Huh, the medication list would be worth the 99 cents alone. It would be nice to hand of the iPod and not have to try and remember the 97 different meds I'm on.

    Thanks for the info!

  3. It is very useful information. I like it very much. It will be help a huge number of people, who have the interest in this field. Keeps it up great work!!!!!.

  4. Wow! I'm a brand new iPod Touch owner too, but I hadn't found these great apps you mention yet!

    One free app I'm liking (that from your photo I don't think you'd need :-) is LoseIt. In addition to helping me keep on target for weight loss, it's a great food journal. Since my docs are now exploring whether my varied health problems could be related to diet, this will help me remember what I ate on which days, and I hopefully will be able to see if I'm having any food triggers to my worsening symptoms.

    But I'm going to go download those apps you mention. I wonder if the data you enter on the Touch is backed up in our iTunes libraries, the way music/apps we download from an iPod are ... I haven't looked to see, but it would be nice.

    I hope you're also having fun with the non-health related things on your Touch too!

  5. Aviva,

    Glad to know I'm not the only one obsessed with the Touch :) As for your question about backing-up, I'm not sure, but have been wondering about that. I know that you can back up if you are using a program to upload (i.e. Outlook), but not sure if you can do it the other way around. I may try and contact ITunes, and if they get back to me, I can post it here.


  6. I'm a member of Kaiser Permanente of Southern California too. I love the paper at the end (and love how they write all my allergies) and seeing all my blood test results online... and love getting an email telling me when they come out... and love that I don't have to tell my history to each doctor I see. All the doctors talk to each other so quickly and I don't have to explain my whole history and have to bring all my paperwork to each appointment... they have it all there.

    I love the new technologies (I'm a software engineer... I should)... but haven't gotten to getting all these cool new gadgets ('cause I think I'd be obsessed too and be too preoccupied when I'm with people). I'm avoiding it as much as possible. But one day, maybe I'll write an app for lupus patients... maybe one day.