Earlier this week, Sanofi-Aventis announced the impending arrival of the IBGStar, a nifty little device that plugs in to an iPhone and will allow diabetics to upload information from their blood glucose tests (a pinprick blood test that many diabetics must perform daily) to an application called iBGStar Diabetes Manager.
This may not seem like rocket science, but for many diabetics, who have carted around devices and test strips in addition to all the other gadgets and personal items the rest of us carry, and who have had very limited options for blood glucose data entry, let alone an intelligent way to share this data with their physicians, it is a breakthrough in managing their conditions. Not to mention, it actually has a little bit of a cool-factor. Think of it as 4Square for your blood sugar.
“You could say this launch opens up a new chapter in the evolution of smart, connected personal devices: they are no longer useful only for basic communication and “infotainment,” but are now turning into mission-critical health devices — with this product being the first major proof-point available.”
While the iPhone integration component is very cool, the part that really excites me is the vision of allowing data to flow freely between a patient, their doctor, and presumably potentially other nodes in the health care system, including pharmacists, insurance companies, and researchers. The health care industry is ripe for a revolution in information and evidence-based care. We spend too much money on treatments that have either no effect or negative effects. Information sharing between doctors’ offices, hospitals, clinics, pharmacies and insurers is a vast miasma of paper trails, single-purpose systems, and readily unavailable information.
Some people seem to balk at the idea of applying statistical analysis to health care data, as though we would suddenly start turning off respirators because patients fall on the wrong side of a bell curve. Others balk at privacy considerations. These are certainly issues to consider mindfully as we move toward digitizing and modernizing health care data, but the industry stands out as a wasteland of missed opportunities to innovate with information technology. I’m excited to see a new health care management product coming from a pharmaceutical company that not only focuses on behavioral disease management instead of drugs, but is also a great leap forward in the use of personal information technology to improve medical outcomes.
I haven’t seen it in the news lately, but something else that’s always puzzled me is the No Fly List. What kind of god-awful database is this? Some kind of de-centralized main frame? Something involving pneumatic tubes and morse code? Allegedly, there are about 8,500 names on this list, an utterly manageable number of records, even for a spreadsheet, and yet somehow we’ve got hundreds of thousands of potential “false positives” and it takes weeks and months to get babies off this thing, because apparently they’re only listing NAMES, not something that might help differentiate people to keep an eye on from regular people who happen to have the same name, like BIRTH DATE, or (call me crazy) a photograph. In perusing the No Fly List Wikipedia page, I saw this gem of an Antipattern (Reinventing the Square Wheel) waiting to happen:
“In an effort to reduce the number of false positives, DHS announced on April 28, 2008 that each airline will be permitted to create a system to verify and store a passenger’s date of birth, to clear up watch list misidentifications.”
Ohhhhkayyyy. So each airline creates its own proprietary system, ensuring lack of consistency and a ridiculous Kafkaesque experience for any individual who happens to wind up on the butt end of this travesty of information management.
I’ve been delighted that there are so many initiatives designed to put willing developers together with civic and public programs that need them, like the ArtsTech Project, Code for America, and DIYCity. I would love to see someone help our crusty old bureaucracy address the No Fly List.
I’ve started mentally filing away any time I see either an IT vacuum or a really poor implementation of an IT solution that has the potential to be awesome. Have you seen any?