I’ve never seen my medical records, save for a few stolen glances when I’ve peeked over my doctor’s shoulder as he types my psychosomatic symptoms into his laptop. And if you’re a fellow American who’s been lucky enough to dodge disease or trauma, you’re probably in the same boat as I am—your health history lives in files you’ve never actually seen.
Hello Doctor, by Israeli designer Ziv Meltzer, is an iPad app that captures, stores, and catalogs your medical records. It can import the documents via camera, email, or Dropbox, so whenever you change doctors or travel abroad, your personal data comes with you.
Still, isn’t collecting medical records a pain? The task will actually soon become easier, thanks to Obamacare. Currently, Americans have the right to request their records, but the process can be a logistical nightmare. The Blue Button, introduced in 2010, allows veterans and federal employees to download all of their medical records with the press of a, yes, blue button. As part of the Affordable Care Act, the same tool should come to the rest of us in the coming years.
But with access to our health records solved, the next question is, what will a lay person do with them?
"The first goal of Hello Doctor is to help you connect your medical records and manage them," Meltzer tells Co.Design. "The next step will be to help you understand them."
And it’s this next step that has us particularly intrigued by the Hello Doctor app. Meltzer shared a few concepts that will be added to his platform in the coming months. They will allow patients to actually analyze esoteric doctor speak with definitions and graphs—basically, you're talking about data visualization that can sit as a layer on top of your medical record to better explain it.
By processing the language, Hello Doctor can spot acronyms like RBC (red blood cell count), allowing it to recognize the RBC value of 8.1 on your record. What does an RBC of 8.1 mean? This is exactly what Hello Doctor uses a pop-up box to explain, giving context to the test and visualizing the result on the chart’s full scale. So we learn that an RBC count of 8.1 is totally normal.
"I'm not trying to replace the doctor. I’m a designer; I’d be a bad doctor," Meltzer laughs. "But I am trying to make the information manageable, and less stressful."
Contextualizing health data is a daunting task. Anything from the wrong color on a chart (like a worrisome red in place of a soothing green) to a silly UX bug could send a user into a panic about their well-being. It’s why Meltzer admits that, of the many apps and websites he’s built, this is the first project that frightens him.
But that’s not curbing Meltzer’s greater vision. After his visualization updates are pushed, he wants to begin mining a patient’s health records—keeping their personal privacy intact, or even allowing them the option to opt out of sharing altogether—to discover meaningful trends. With a large enough sample size, and incredibly intelligent algorithms, Hello Doctor could cross reference patient data to discover unknown drug interactions, quantify the success of health interventions, or even tell a second-stage lung cancer patient what treatment other second stage lung cancer patients sought after diagnosis.
"I have no interest in knowing who you are, what you're doing, where you live, or anything else," Meltzer says. "I just want to help you access your information, and make the research easy to access based upon your information."