Who would have thought that a bookthe life-changing magic of tidying up – the Japanese art of decluttering and organising” written by a Japanese woman on how to be tidy – and find happiness, contentment, and even joy, in the process – would turn out to be runaway best seller.   Yes, the “art” of decluttering and finding contentment is said to be no further away than following the advice of the author of the book.

But the question we need to ask ourselves is that where decluttering and finding happiness, contentment and peace of mind ends?    Only related to our homes?   For instance, although by no means certain to be up-to-date, let alone securely stored somewhere (office or on the cloud), we entrust people like financial advisors to have put together, and be maintaining, a record of our financial position.    We hope that our medical records are also up-to-date, somewhere, and readily accessible.

We are all captive to an ever-busier life and keeping up with a changing world around us.   The issue confronting us is to keep abreast of what is happening and with change to adapt to it.    Bill Gates put it this way:

“We always overestimate the change that will occur in the next 2 years and underestimate the change which will occur in the next 10 years.    Don’t let yourself be lulled into inaction”.

Easier said than done one might say!    Then again, as much as we try to declutter our homes we tend to neglect other aspects of our lives – which are equally important, if not even more s0 – than ensuring our laundry is properly folded and our cupboards duly   organised and arranged, etc. etc.    If one were to be injured or out of circulation  for whatever reason, amongst other things, who would have our medical history readily available, know what bank accounts and health insurance we have – and no less importantly how to access them – and what is to happen to our pets?

There can be no better assured way of having peace of mind that we, ourselves, have taken steps to ensured that we have at the very least have gathered together and recorded, for that “rainy day” our medical details.      Reflect on the experience of Steven Keating, a 26-year-old doctoral student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Media Lab as reported in “The Healing Power of of your Own Medical Records” in The New York Times:

“A scan of his brain eight years ago revealed a slight abnormality — nothing to worry about, he was told, but worth monitoring. And monitor he did, reading and studying about brain structure, function and wayward cells, and obtaining a follow-up scan in 2010, which showed no trouble.

But he knew from his research that his abnormality was near the brain’s olfactory center. So when he started smelling whiffs of vinegar last summer, he suspected they might be “smell seizures.”

He pushed doctors to conduct an M.R.I., and three weeks later, surgeons in Boston removed a cancerous tumor the size of a tennis ball from his brain.At every stage, Mr. Keating, a 26-year-old doctoral student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Media Lab, has pushed and prodded to get his medical information, collecting an estimated 70 gigabytes of his own patient data by now. His case points to what medical experts say could be gained if patients had full and easier access to their medical information. Better-informed patients, they say, are more likely to take better care of themselves, comply with prescription drug regimens and even detect early-warning signals of illness, as Mr. Keating did.

“Today he is a big exception, but he is also a glimpse of what people will want: more and more information,” said Dr. David W. Bates, chief innovation officer at Brigham and Women’s Hospital.”

HealthBank – a data key (the size of a credit card or a small usb attachable to a key ring) which records all medical details about oneself – is the straight-forward answer for all of us.  Easy to use as typing an email and allowing for medical reports and the like to be scanned in, it provides the readily accessible medical data we all know we will be called on to access and provide.

Just about everywhere in the world, governments have tried to introduce a universal medical data system, only to see it not work.     Systems simply cannot cope with all the data, leaving the poor patient at the mercy of a hit-and-miss record-keeping process.

If one was in any doubt that we should collect and protect our own medical data – and in the process find joy, contentment and peace of mind! – the last word should go to 2 professors at Harvard in a recent editorial in the New England Journal of Medicine as reported by medable:

“A patient-controlled health record infrastructure cansupport the development of highly desirable healthsystem qualities,” the authors write. “First, it allows apatient to effectively become a health information exchange of one: as data accumulate in a patient-controlled repository, a complete picture of the patient emerges. If patients can obtain their data wherever they go, they can share them with physicians as needed — rather than vice versa. We believe the Meaningful Use program would have been more successful if it had rewarded clinicians for storing data in patient-controlled repositories rather than in EHRs that fragment data across the health care system.” 

Mandl and Kohane conclude their piece with a call to action, saying that the government, healthcare providers, and the research community all need to work together to facilitate this sea change from hospital- based portals to patient-based personal health”