Estimated reading time: 2 minutes, 5 seconds

Earlier this year patients of Kaiser Permanente in California got the option of purchasing a portable version on their medical records. For five dollars, each patient received a password protected flash drive that contained an abridged version of his or her medical history.

The records were limited to data such as medications, drug allergies, immunizations, recent test results and general patient information all stored on a standard USB flash drive. Now, this is not new technology both flash drives and using a flash drive to carry around medical information have been around for several years. Although, carrying a flash drive with medical information on it was usually done by those who had a medical condition and traveled extensively, or were computer savvy and loved gadgets, but with a large health care system like Kaiser now offering it to patients, it could generate renewed interest. While the Kaiser USB drives are purchased directly from the Kaiser medical system, specifically for Kaiser patients, there are a large number of vendors who offer medical flash drives.

Medic-Alert has two varieties; the Medic-Tag and the eMedic Key, both of these USB drives carry the universally known Medic Alert logo. Another option is the flash drive by Positive Resource. They now offer the electronic version of their paper based health care tracking system. The Health Care Tracker is a complete medical record package that includes a PDF format patient information sheet, which the patient completes and stores on the USB drive. Proponents see the medical flash drive as a way to bypass the lack of interoperability/portability in the healthcare system. That is until electronic medical records become universal.

Moreover, for those who don’t want to expose their personal health data to cyberspace it is a viable alternative to online personal health records like HealthVault and Google Personal Health Records. Since, it is a portable medical file. It brings up the same questions as personal health records, the safety of the information and the reliability of the information. Some the flash drives require that the users’ sign up for a service or go online to update their medical information…others are simply a matter of updating the PDF files. There is additional concern that an incapacitated patient may have the USB device but be unable to tell the doctors the password. Also some of the flash drives are key rings or stand alone, may end up lost in the bottom of a briefcase or purse and be of no use to the patient.

Last modified on Monday, 10 June 2013
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