Saturday, January 27, 2007

A portable Medical Information Management solution

Lavie has a larger than normal number of prescriptions and doctors due to her Fibromyalgia.

We've been dealing with it for a number of years now and I'm so proud of Lavie's courage and tenacity in living life. It's meant some adjustments in our relationship and routines, but for the most part she is able to hold down a full-time job and get out and about with minimal disruption.

She is so fantastic.

She seems to have at least one specialist visit every other month to keep track of, and all those aforementioned prescriptions.

Lavie asked me if I could find her a way to keep all her medical information organized for her.

Anything for my Girl.

Prescription Keeper

It took me a long time, but I did track down a $ application called The Prescription Keeper.

But it had some issues:

It wouldn't install on my XP systems, (had to "hack" the setup file to get it going) and the interface left a lot to be desired--it looked like a Windows98 program or an Access database with custom Form views. It did have a lot of the features she was looking for; prescription tracking with detailed drug information fields, refill reminder notifications, doctor/pharmacy contact management, website URL tracking, and report generation. I couldn't tell if the file was encrypted either...don't want the medical info getting loose!

All in all, not a bad little application...but not quite was Lavie felt comfortable using in her XP interface world

Back to searching...and I didn't find any other alternatives.

So I began to rethink her problem and came up with a new plan.

Lavie's Portable Medical File

1) USB Stick based

I figured that Lavie would really benefit from having a set of applications that she could keep on a USB memory stick. This way she could always have them at hand; at work, at home, on vacation, at her parent's house, at the doctor's offices.

2) Encryption Mandatory

Because a USB stick could walk-off easily, and her medical information is highly confidential, using an encryption solution was a no-brainer.

So set up a portable TrueCrypt file on her USB stick and showed her how to use it to mount the encrypted portion.

3) Information Management

Lavie and I discussed what information she needed to keep track off. She will have notes from doctor visits to record, doctor and pharmacy contact information, appointment scheduling, refill notification tracking, etc. Sounds like Lavie could use a good portable personal information manager (PIM).

Here were the candidates I selected:

  • Exstora - (freeware) Day planner, note manager, organizer.

  • NeoMem - (freeware) Information/database manager

  • Total Organizer - (freeware) Calendar, organizer, to-dos, contacts and notes.

  • Chaos Manager - (freeware) Contacts, notes, appointments, to-dos, and more keeper.

  • EssentialPIM Free - (freeware) Scheduler, to-dos, tree-based note manager, contacts.

Lavie and I looked at all of them and here were our impressions.

Exstora was a very fast running and light application. It has a very nice looking columnar appearance. It contains a calendar, note manager, scheduling feature. The free version lacks easy printing support and exportation ($-Pro version does). Overall it was a very nice program, but just a bit light for Lavie's needs.

NeoMem was a step up and step down in some ways. Lavie didn't quite care for the Windows98ish interface. It did have a very powerful, almost database like, organizational ability. It allows for quick searching and the wizard was quite useful. It would allow her to keep and organize detailed notes and categories...but it was clearly designed more for information and note management and not task and calendaring events. So we took a pass.

Total Organizer - This is getting closer to what Lavie was looking for. The interface was simple but well organized. It allows for easily organizing of the items--and they can be "tagged" for easy searching. However, Lavie needed a bit more "meat" based on how she was intending to use it.

Chaos Manager was quite impressive. Lavie loved the skinabilty of the program with the large selection of color and image schemes it can use. The interface was very simple, but highly functional. It would allow her to manage a calendar, events, notes, contacts and could even be encrypted. Definitely worth considering.

EssentialPIM Lavie was in love! Upon launching it the first thing she said was, "Wow! This looks just like Outlook and my Lotus Notes!" The schedule view was large and easy to see the events. The note field supported HTML formatting and attachments. The calendar and clock were always clearly displayed on all pages. Contacts, to-do and the today view were all intuitively organized and well designed. (Screenshots) The EssentialPIM Pro ($) has a number of additional features as well. Cost for the Pro version is currently $29.95 for the standard version and $39.95 for the "portable" version. Lavie's going to spend some time with the free one for now, but we will seriously consider buying a portable Pro version. This was the winner.

4) Prescription Management - Portable Spreadsheet!

While any of the PIM's noted above could be used to help manage her prescriptions, none but NeoMem would be able to provide the detailed category and element management she is wanting. We really did like the detail in Prescription Keeper. And the interface inspired us to arrive at a solution: create our own spreadsheet for managing the prescription information.

We could have just downloaded PortableOpenOffice and been done with it. However, it is a massive application and Lavie really didn't feel she needed to go with the "suite" approach.

I did some more looking and found Spread32. It was a very tiny "portable" spreadsheet program. The last freeware version can be found in the pretty cool on its own package "Floppy Office". Just download that and extract just the Spread32 folder. However, upon trying to use it, it just was too clunky to maneuver and didn't seem to support multiple spreadsheet pages. Not quite the solution Lavie, who is a power Excel user, was looking for.

More searching and I discovered the amazing Gnumeric Portable (Gnome Office Spreadsheet) program. It supports all the worksheet functions that Excel has, and has all the sorting and filtering features. It can also export/import from Excel as well. And it supports multiple spreadsheet pages in a workbook file. Lavie took a look at it and, while it has a Gnu Linux look to it, she felt right at home planning out her prescription column categories and was clicking away. It was truly amazing to me.

5) Web and Bookmarks

Lastly we needed to address the number of website bookmarks Lavie uses to track medical information sites and the like.

No brainer! I downloaded and installed Portable Firefox to the USB stick, then copied her bookmarks.html file from her desktop profile over into it. Added a cute theme and she is set!

Lavie is working diligently on getting all her information put into the systems now.

The Girl is happy and so am I.


1 comment:

Michael said...

Claus - once again we are on the same page; I've been using EPIM for some time on my desktop but haven't taken the plunge yet on my USB stick. The free portable doesn't seem to be as feature-rich as the pro version so I might have to spend a little moola to check it out properly. Using it to store medical data is a great use and it makes sense to use the USB flash drive so you can take the data anywhere. I have some Excel spreadsheets I've uploaded to Google Spreadsheets so I can provide blood sugars to my Doc anywhere I can access a Internet connected PC. Meds will be another good way to maintain and share info from a USB drive and/or web-based app. Anyway, thanks for once again stimulating my thinking!