Does CVS provide a CSV?

Over the last two years, I’ve spent most of my time on… not elections believe it or not, but rather the personal control of health data over at Children’s Hospital, Boston, with a fantastic crew. And so now it turns out that health data is super cool, what with the Obama recovery plan and the significant funding towards NIH / electronic medical records. I didn’t see it coming, but I can’t say I’m unhappy, of course.

Over at CHIP (Children’s Hospital Informatics Program), we’re a bunch of folks who feverishly believe that Personally Controlled Health Records (PCHRs), records you get to share, protect, augment as you see fit, are going to be the IT platform of a new, more efficient health care system. You don’t have to believe me, you can just ask Clayton Christensen, the Harvard Business School professor who wrote the book(s) on disruptive technology. And Microsoft HealthVault and Google Health certainly seem to agree with that concept. My group’s project, Indivo, was the original PCHR that inspired the Google and Microsoft efforts (long before I arrived on the scene, so I take no credit.)

Recently, Google Health announced a deal where you can get your CVS pharmacy data into Google Health. That’s great… but can I get the data without involving Google Health if I want to? In other words, will CVS offer me a CSV (comma-separated values) file of my data so I can put it in my own spreadsheet or upload it to a competing PCHR?

I don’t know for sure, but from their web site it looks like they do not support that machine-readable data export. In other words, it’s your data, as long as you use Google Health. (Oh sure, you can export from Google Health, but what if you don’t like Google’s privacy policy?)

Adam Bosworth recently wrote about data liquidity in health records, and he’s right on. Data liquidity means that we stop with these one-off integrations, and start building common APIs and open data formats. Only then will we gain the efficiencies we seek from letting individuals truly control their personal health record.

2 thoughts on “Does CVS provide a CSV?

  1. Thanks for the kind words.

    To be fair, Google has a public API and anyone could (and maybe should) write a Google Health App to help a user get their data out of Google in XML or CSV. I personally prefer XML because the CCR is sort of close to a standard, but I’m easy. So they don’t really lock in your data. And you, the patient, get to control who sees it.

  2. Hi Adam,

    Yes, you’re absolutely right, Google has a public API, and I only used the term “CSV” to play on the name “CVS”, XML would be better🙂

    But what I find surprising is that CVS built an interface to Google Health before they built an interface to… me. Why is their interface exclusive to Google Health? There are privacy policies at Google that I may not like, I might prefer to go to MS HealthVault or something else.

    So, data liquidity has to mean *open* APIs where any PCHR can access the data via the API, not these bilateral one-offs where one PHR is favored over another.

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