© 2021 WRVO Public Media
Your Source for NPR News
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Creating a Carezone of health information

  Managing personal information is a constant problem in the digital age. And managing health information for yourself or a loved one is especially hard because it can be sensitive. This week on “Take Care,” WRVO's health and wellness show, hosts Lorraine Rapp and Linda Lowen speak with the former CEO of Sun Microsystems Jonathan Schwartz. He founded the website CareZone, which provides a safe place to store medical history and share it with family members.

Lorraine  Rapp: Why is there a need to manage family care giving on line?

Jonathan Schwartz: Well, I think there’s definitely a need to manage private, family information. One of my first exposures to this was 13 years ago I had my first child, and as with any new parent, there’s a bunch of information that I needed to manage. Some of it was health related. And between my wife and me, we didn’t know where to do it. So we were passing emails back and forth, and then you need to go search to figure out where you wrote that thing down, and then it’s gone, you can’t really find it anymore. And then that issue kind of faded away for me. Both my children got older, and got healthier in some ways. And then a few years back, my parents, it’s as if they popped up and they’ve gotten old overnight. And my brother and I had a lot of information we needed to manage – clinicians, and hospitals, and prescriptions. You know, there were notes back and forth, with my dad involved, and we wanted a safe place to do it. And I just happened to have gotten free from a job in Silicon Valley, and I had an opportunity to work with some really smart people to figure out a way to solve the problem. And the problem is providing people with a safe place to get organized. Because, again, there’s often everything from emergency contacts, to list of medicines, to the names of doctors clinicians, or even just the local hairdresser. And you want to put that in one place and have it be safely organized, and then you want to be able to share it with your spouse or your sibling or a caregiver so everybody’s singing from the same songbook. And once you do that, then obviously you have the efficiencies and the security of working with network technologies, you’ve got the privacy to know that nobody’s going to use that information against you at some point. And then what we ended up deciding is there are a whole lot of things we can do to make life easier. We could start reminding you when to take your medicines or keeping track of when mom did take her medicine – simple things that are involved with caring for somebody else -- there were no tools to do that. The internet in some way had become a very narcissistic environment, where it’s all about helping me find a date or helping me find a job. And we wanted to try to turn that around and say, imagine if we could point all of that great technology to helping you take care of someone else and we could bring along the privacy that is inherent in managing someone else’s information. And let’s go solve that problem on phones, on tablets, on the web, and that’s what we did.

Linda Lowen: It’s been said that the medical industry is probably one of the last large industries to really move to the online platform and to go digital, and there’s been a lot of resistance. Why is it so critical for people to take their information online now and to do it themselves, so they know it’s safe and secure.

Schwartz: I’ll just give you one simple example. I hope this never happens, but a parent falls down and you’re on vacation together and you get to the hospital and the doctor says, “What meds is your parent on?” You want to not say, “Well, I’m going to need to make a phone call back to my main hospital administrator to see if I can get access…” No. You just want to be able to say these are his meds and this is his medical history. And the idea that that’s going to be tied up in some hospital’s proprietary system, that’s just not okay. That’s not being truly in service of the people who are being cared for.

More of this interview can be heard on "Take Care," WRVO's health and wellness show Sunday at 6:30 p.m. Support for this story comes from the Health Foundation for Western and Central New York.