Posted by: danreich | June 23, 2008

Organizing the world’s heath

Of all the doctor’s offices I’ve ever been in, I can undoubtedly say they all have one thing in common: The overwhelming amounts of patient files and folders. Next time you go see the doctor, take a look behind the front desk. You will most likely find the sea of colored tabbed, manila folders, each one corresponding to a different patient.

Think about this for a second. Each medical office or facility has huge amounts of patient data that exist in isolated silos. If I were to visit two different general physicians, I would get two different examinations, with two different diagnoses, two different perspectives, and two different data sets on my health. Although they may be very similar, they will most certainly be different to some degree.

With the advent of the internet, the social web, search optimization, and relational databases, it has become increasingly easier to share and access information.

Why can’t we apply the same methods to our own heath? Imagine if every doctor’s office shared one database, offering more insight to a patients health. Granted privacy is an issue and a big concern. But what if those patients lived in the database as ID’s rather then name? The patient would be completely anonymous, and doctor can gain new perspective to a patient’s health they may not have previously had.

Now imagine the database existed in an open source, atlassian-like structure. If the doctor was trying to diagnose a patient based on a list of symptoms, they could hypothetically type in some keywords into the database, and have real time, real world patients at their finger tips (with no personally identifiable information). It would be like a real time, global medical journal. Doctors would have to qualify in order to participate in the database.

Ultimately, the patient wins as their health becomes an open source project for all of the doctors that participate, without their indentity ever being known.



  1. It’s killing me… I cannot remember the social website URL that someone developed to do what you’re describing. It wasn’t a doctor or heath care professional. It was some guy who was living with a disease that wanted to know how other people were medicating themselves. Users that live with the same disease wrote about their experiences and slowly you had a picture of how people were treating the same issue. And while it tapped into the wisdom of crowds, it also provided a forum for people to discuss novel new treatments that have or have not worked. While that site focused on really sick people, I could imagine it working equally well for things like asthma or allergies.

    BTW, as someone that works at Atlassian, just wanted to say “thanks” for the mention 🙂

  2. Jon,

    I appreciate the comment. It seems (hopefully) that it will only be a matter of time until technology breaks the barriers of politics and law as it has in the past. The question is, what does that look like regarding health?

    Keep up the good work at Atlassian.

  3. Finally found it!

    It’s a great example of people taking control of their own health. My impression was that these were people who were exhausted by their disease or condition and who thought “there must be a better way,” but they didn’t know how to tap into a broad network. Knowing that the medical system can take a long time to adopt IT, this seemed like a great model.


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