DESLEY BLANCH : Imagine compiling all your health records - or those of your family - on a website, monitoring the changes over the years and presenting the information to health professionals as you see fit. Well, it's now possible via a new Australian website called miVitals where your medical history is at your fingertips from anywhere in the world.
Jude Foster, the founder and CEO of miVitals tells Richard Aedy, why she felt the need to create the online site.
JUDE FOSTER : Well, if you think about it Richard, we're all very much into maintaining our homes and maintaining our finances but people often forget about their health. Now I guess it got me thinking about why couldn't people have their own health information that they can store in a secure place online and then choose to share what aspects of that with other people.
RICHARD AEDY : Now you've kind of used it yourself in a way as you've had to because you've moved?
JUDE FOSTER : That's it, I've just moved down from the beautiful mid-north coast of New South Wales down to Sydney for miVitals and I had to leave my general practitioner that I've had up there for 25 years. So he very kindly gave me copies of all my records and I have put them online now to be able to share with the new GP that I find down here and dentist and optician and so on.
RICHARD AEDY: So you can get everything, it's not just the GP's notes, you can, I suppose can you put x-rays and things like that on it?
JUDE FOSTER : You certainly can. Most people have x-rays hiding in their closet somewhere or behind the filing cabinet and if you can centralise all of that information on line, it means that when you need it, you'll be able to access it from wherever you are in the world.
RICHARD AEDY : So, when you take it to your new GP, how does he or she access the site? Do you give them a password or?
JUDE FOSTER : They will have their own log-in to the site. There's no charge for them to be able to register. That part's actually under development, the sharing part. But right now, people can go on and record vital information, such as what allergies they have, what medications they're taking, who the key people are who are involved in their life, who the next of kin is, that kind of vital information. And if they wish they can also record their immunisations, their other health history so that they have a record across their life span of different information.
So, for example, when I put my information in I was amazed that I'd completely forgotten that there was a medication that I took about 15 years ago that I had a really bad reaction to. So I'm able to put that into miVitals and know that that will come up in any of the reports that are created for the health professional.
RICHARD AEDY : Is it possible to -- I don't know if you can do this yet -- but could it work so that when you go to get your script from the chemist, the chemist can use it to say, well, if you're going to have this you really shouldn't be having that over the counter medication, or something like that?
JUDE FOSTER : That's exactly one of the applications of it, because a lot of people -- I hope that when the sharing is available for everybody that people will include pharmacists in that team, because we actually all have a lot of health professionals who are involved in our health as an individual and you multiple that in a family. So to be able to share with the pharmacist all of the different medications that you've taken over time and any reactions that you've had is very valuable, plus the integration with complementary therapies and things that people often keep quite separate in their minds.
RICHARD AEDY : Yes.
JUDE FOSTER : So they go and see their family doctor, for example, and they don't disclose that they're also seeing, having some homeopathic treatment or some other complementary therapy.
RICHARD AEDY : I mean there can be real issues, can't there?
JUDE FOSTER : Yes, there certainly can, yes. The National Prescribing Service have been very much promoting people disclosure of that kind of information to their doctors and to their pharmacists and it's very important that that's all recorded.
RICHARD AEDY : You've had to, with your son, (he's now an adult), but he had health problems as a child. You had to deal with lots of different professionals and many people have to do this and be the central communicator. You become the expert, don't you?
JUDE FOSTER : I think that's part of what really drove me to this Richard. I really believe that people are the experts on their health and that it's very empowering for them to work in partnership with the professionals who are involved in their life. I found that within my own family, that when you have somebody with a chronic illness in the family, that there might be 10 or 12 people who are involved in their management and it's usually the advocate in that family which is often the Mum where its kids involved, might be then going backwards and forwards to all of those professionals and you're trying to download what you think is the most salient information for those people and in the short time that you have with them.
Sometimes you might inadvertently not be telling them things that are really critical for them to know. So, I've had a lot of support from wonderful professionals here and overseas who've looked at the kind of way that people are guided in entering information in forms. They're given forms that they can then enter appropriate information to go into these reports. And it really provides the professionals then with something that's very easy for them to be able to glance through and see what they want.
RICHARD AEDY : Is this free?
JUDE FOSTER : Yes it is. The core health module is free and we also have under development some other specialised modules that will allow people to record, for example, pregnancy information, diabetes, child development, to be able to record all of the different milestones of their children from when they're born to right through to when they're elderly.
RICHARD AEDY : It seems timely, because there are changes going on in the way we live, and the way health services are provided. We're more mobile, we're moving generally towards managing our own lives in a way that we didn't used to have to. It used to all be done for us, if you like?
JUDE FOSTER : That's right, that's so, when you think about -- well I'm 52, when I'm thinking at 25 years ago people were going to the same health professionals for a long period of time. But I look at my own children now who are living all around the world and often have their phone as being their central access point to things. I'll be able to access information about that through their phones.
I mean I've seen one of my boys sitting on the subway in New York, actually updating his immunisation while he was sitting on the subway.
RICHARD AEDY : This isn't the first time someone's tried to do something like this. There have been other attempts to set up online health management. They haven't always ended that well.
JUDE FOSTER : Yes, I think it's been a space that lots of people have been trying to get into and I think that often because the approaches have been much more systemic, they're looking much more at connecting hospitals and health professionals and so on is the primary reason for getting it started and then the potential possibly down the track for individuals to be able to access part of their records.
This is quite the opposite of that. It's actually starting with the consumer.
RICHARD AEDY : From the bottom up, if you like.
JUDE FOSTER : Totally bottom up and allowing people, I mean people who have the most to benefit from having their health well understood and be effective advocates, being able to maintain their health record across their life span and share it with whom they want, so they can you know find these overseas next year or the year after my information will be there and I can provide it directly to -- if I'm going to get my eyes checked in, you know, Scandinavia or somewhere or I broke my glasses I'll have the script that's there that I can go in and get the repairs done, or break a tooth, those kinds of things that really can impact on your comfort and safety when you're travelling.
DESLEY BLANCH : CEO and founder of miVitals, Jude Foster who was talking with ABC's Richard Aedy.
Founder and CEO
miVitals Technology Pty Ltd