Sunday, February 22, 2004

Patients can tote data

Medical records fit on new 'Mobidisk'

By Jenny Callison
Enquirer contributor

Joyce McHenry, R.N., (left) and her husband, Dr. Marshall McHenry, developed the Mobidisk, a CD that contains a patient's history.
The Cincinnati Enquirer/GARY LANDERS

EAST PRICE HILL - In his quest to make his patients' records truly portable, Dr. Marshall McHenry had a whale of an idea: to transfer records onto a mini-CD. He calls his wallet-sized product the Mobidisk -"mobi" is an acronym for Medical Office-Based Information.

The west-side internist had helped his staff transcribe plenty of records the old-fashioned way, and found it difficult and time-consuming.

"Like most physicians, my handwriting is just horrible," he said. "To have reproducible records that a person could read, I had to go to dictation."

Dictating records and then having them transcribed was labor-intensive and costly. So McHenry invested in Dragon voice-recognition software, teaching it to recognize a host of medical terms. Using Dragon, he initially created computer files that were then printed out, but realized how inefficient the process was.

"It struck me that this was silly to do, that it would make more sense to stay digital and put the records on a CD-ROM," he said.

As soon as she began marketing the Mobidisk at health fairs, Joyce McHenry found great enthusiasm for it among medical office managers. When her husband's patients move, consult a specialist, apply for life or health insurance or are involved in an injury-causing accident, a Mobidisk conveys the necessary information in an organized, readable manner.

Thus far, her physician husband is Optimum Living Corp.'s major customer, but Mobidisk's producer is getting more and more requests from other physicians who want to put their patients' records on disk.

The cost of a disk is $65, regardless of the amount of information it contains. When insurance companies or lawyers request patient records, the fee that they pay covers the cost. A duplicate Mobidisk costs $10.

Dr. McHenry's offices are at 4871 Prosperity Place in East Price Hill and at 105 W. Fourth St. downtown. Information: 251-9900.

Jenny Callison

McHenry mulled the idea for about two years before deciding to act on it. He burned his first CD in August 2002.

Each disk has 17 category files, for information ranging from medications and allergies to living wills and laboratory tests. Documents and charts from the paper file are scanned and converted to PDF files, which can be opened with Adobe Acrobat Reader.

"The scanned resolution is so good that you can actually have EKGs that are very readable," McHenry said, adding that reproducing records to the disk is no more time-consuming than making paper copies would be.

McHenry brainstormed ideas for a product name with his wife, Joyce. Mobidisk production became part of Optimum Living Corp., their property management company. Joyce McHenry assumed oversight of disk production, marketing and distribution.

"Since we began producing Mobidisks, our focus has changed," Joyce McHenry said. "At first, we thought of this as a nice, compact way to store records. Then we thought, gosh, so many people travel; it would be nice if they could take their medical records with them, especially if they have a complex history. But then, we had so many requests for patient records from insurance companies, attorneys, life insurance companies. Those requests represent about 75 percent of our market."

As business picked up, it became evident that the McHenrys could not handle Mobidisk production by themselves. A casual conversation at a youth soccer game introduced the couple to Robert Pfander, a west-side businessman. Pfander's gift-packing company, Creekside Creations, employs a number of well-educated women part time while their children are in school.

Because so much of his work is seasonal, Pfander's problem has always been finding work for his employees during slow periods. Transferring paper records to disk was a natural, he said.

"A couple of the ladies that work for me have previously worked at doctors' offices," he said. "They lay out the charts according to which category they belong to, and then scan them in."

Using high-speed scanners, it takes about an hour to process an average patient folder and burn the disk, Pfander said. Several of his employees now produce the Mobidisks after being trained by Marshall McHenry.

Besides providing concise and readable versions of people's medical records, Mobidisks address patient privacy requirements of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), which took effect last April.

Although the disks are updated with every visit to McHenry's office, the information on them can only be read, not altered.

"He has presented his concept to the Academy of Medicine of Cincinnati-Hamilton County and is hopeful that the physicians' organization will partner with him in some way. Currently, the academy is monitoring and evaluating the Mobidisk.

"We're interested in what he's doing and can see some benefits to physicians and patients," academy executive director Russell Dean said. "I think his technology and vision are very interesting. There may be a role for us in getting this out there and used. We think the potential is great, and the technology remarkable."

While the little disks make decoding patient files much easier for insurance companies and lawyers, the ultimate beneficiary will be patients, Dean said. The academy likes the fact that Mobidisk technology allows records, once on disk, to be copied and transported with ease.

Said Dean: "The ability for a patient to have his or her entire medical history in a wallet, for the patient to be in control of that medical history: ultimately that is the wonderful benefit."


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