New way to track your medical data

Hamish Macdonald of Dunedin with the  medical health diary he is marketing.
Hamish Macdonald of Dunedin with the medical health diary he is marketing.

Dunedin-based health company Lifetime Health Diary is trialing its wares in South Canterbury, but has its eyes on Japan and the United States. Mike Houlahan reports.

If you ever wished you had all your medical information at your fingertips, a Dunedin company has developed a tool to do just that.

Lifetime Health Diary is exactly what the name suggests - decades worth of medical information, uploaded by a patient or clinician in an easy to use format for medical professionals to access.

The information has a multitude of uses: currently being trialled to monitor diabetics and the elderly, the programme has also been considered for use in hospices, in high-performance sport, and as a "break glass in emergencies" tool for ambulance services.

The diary is the brainchild of Dr Atsushi Matsunaga, physician and owner of the Ohkita Medical Clinic in Osaka, Japan. Its link with Dunedin comes via Lifetime Health Diary chief executive Hamish MacDonald, a University of Otago commerce graduate who met Matsunaga during his 20 years living and working in Japan.

"I came back three years ago, and Dunedin had the medical school and the business incubator Upstart, both of which were very helpful," MacDonald said.

"I spent a lot of that time working in America, but we have a base in New Zealand now Dunedin is a great place to start up a prototype, especially in medicine."

Lifetime Health Diary is patient driven - it relies on people regularly and accurately entering medical information. While MacDonald does not envisage a medical professional using that data as a diagnostic tool, it could provide clues for a clinician trying to track the cause of a problem, or provide information about previous successful or unsuccessful treatments.

"The medical system is fantastic at putting people back together at the bottom of a cliff, but the idea is to stop them trying to fall off in the first place and what we've realised is that even if a patient doesn't want to use a system like this, a lot of caregivers do. They are looking for a system to input data that doesn't get lost in a pile by the bed, but which can be seen by the doctor, the nurse, or whoever they see."

Privacy of information is a major concern for the company, and MacDonald said a great deal of work had gone in to make sure Lifetime Health Diary complied with the laws concerning privacy and medical records.

"Because it's patient-owned, the whole dynamic changes. It's like looking after your gmail or your Facebook account," he said.

"Medicine hasn't really truly adopted information technology, and information tends to be silo'd within each area of medicine, be it GPs or specialists or hospitals or labs or pharmacies and they are all disparate. As a patient all those things affect you, but there is really no umbrella view for anyone in the system to see what has happened to the patient."

Since its establishment, Lifetime Health Diary developed a first version of its web-based diary. A second, more specialised version is now being trialled by the South Canterbury District Health Board.

The firm employs five people, with their work overseen by a board and scientific advisory board. With MacDonald's international connections, the firm is looking much further afield. Japan - birthplace of the product - is a natural fit if trials go well. The United States has also been explored as a territory of interest.

"I've always been conscious that because New Zealand is a small market it's a great place to start things, but it's very difficult to get scaleability," MacDonald said.

"The US for example, is where half of all healthcare dollars get spent but you have to choose your targets, because it's so fractured. America is like 50 small countries, not just one we are still in the initial stages, but we are seeing some very positive signs."

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