When Congress passed HIPAA, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, “portability” referred to the right to transfer your health insurance and health records – not necessarily just carrying them around with you in your pocket. However, thanks to remarkable new Personal Health Record (PHR) technology, that is exactly what is becoming possible. 
One of the first such portable PHR devices was the MediStick. Developed in Switzerland, the MediStick is based on a simple flash drive, the kind you would use to carry other files and documents around, for example from your office to home, or while traveling. It works with multiple languages and in any country according to the manufacturers. All the system requirements are pre-loaded on the stick, so it will work via the USB port of any PC – no special software is required on the receiving PC. The patient has complete control over what information is viewable or locked upon insertion. 

Virginia based VitalKey uses a similar technology, but has the distinction of being a Health IT PHR solutions company founded entirely by doctors. VitalKey not only provides the technology for a portable PHR, but is a service as well. Patients can order a VitalKey “plan” tailored to their specific medical needs and histories, i.e.: Diabetics, single persons, families, cancer suffers, etc. Upon ordering the apropos Portable PHR, VitalKey will gather, organize and load it with the necessary records and info and send it to you. 

The head of the Virginia State Senate, Peter Shumlin, is pushing legislation to have “medical smart cards” used to track medical expenses and health insurance payments in his state. The idea is that patients will swipe the card like an ATM or credit card upon receiving services at a doctors’ office. While not a use of PHR per se, such cards could conceivably contain Personal Health Records and be integrated with EHRs as well. In June of last year New York’s Mt. Sinai Hospital began issuing Smart Card IDs for patients. The cards have a picture of the patient and hold up to 33-pages of medical data. So far more, than 2,000 patients have the cards and the hospital eventually hopes to get them in the wallets of over 10,000 patients. 

“There’s an App for That”

At the recent HIMSS09 Expo, Allscripts unveiled an application for its EHR solution, for use with an iPhone, called Allscripts Remote. It provides physicians real time access to Allscripts EHR, virtually anytime, anywhere. While Allscripts Remote has been designed to be used by doctors for their EHR solution, an iPhone PHR app cannot be far behind.