UPDATED: February 14, 2018 at 5:02 a.m.
Swellbox, a health data startup hoping to encourage students to create a lifetime health account, is once again actively promoting its services to students on campus.
Stephen Cho, co-founder and head of business development at Swellbox, said the company allows users to see all their past and present health records at the same time.
“If your patient ever switches providers two or three times, you have medical data in a bunch of different places that you can’t access all in one place, let alone digitally. So Swellbox essentially builds a platform that allows you to unlock all those records,” Cho said.
Swellbox has been in discussions to work with Harvard for over a year, along with other schools, like Stanford and the University of Pennsylvania, but Paul J. Barreira, Director of Harvard University Health Services, said he would not call it a partnership.
“It’s just another way for students to get their records. I don’t see anything more than that. The health services concern is just to give it to you in any form you want it,” Barreira said.
“You could say ‘Jack in the Box,’ and we would give it to ‘Jack in the Box,’ if you had the right form and signed the form,” he added.
In Nov. 2016, the Undergraduate Council unanimously endorsed an open letter to HUHS administrators urging that students be given more access to health information.
Jefferson E. Seidl ’16, alumni chair of the Harvard Health Data Working Group, consultant to Swellbox, and one of the letter’s co-authors, said there is a need for greater access to health records.
“While UHS was providing good care to students, it wasn’t necessarily, in our opinion, empowering students with their health information in a way that the University as a whole was championing on the national stage,” Seidl said.
Seidl said he was encouraged by the response to the letter from HUHS.
“They actually got rid of fees for record requests, which we viewed as an impediment to data empowerment and also expanded their offerings in the portal,” Seidl added.
Now, Barreira confirmed, students can request their health records at no charge from HUHS.
“I think most students don’t even know they can get their medical records and sign and we’ll give them to you. There is no fee. There used to be but we removed it,” he said.
Though health records themselves may not be an issue, Mridu Nanda ’21 said accessibility to the HUHS website is still a concern.
“Getting [on the website] and it being more apparent what services they offer would be good,” Nanda said.
Conner P. Williams ’21 added, “I would love to see my appointment history, but scheduling is fine.”
Seidl said Swellbox could help address many of these concerns. By aggregating health data into one portal, Swellbox is able to seamlessly present a patient’s information, Seidl added.
Barreira said Swellbox’s mission is in line with larger trends in modern healthcare.
“I don’t think it’s neither good nor bad,” he said. “What they're saying is healthcare is moving in the direction where patients own their medical records and that we have to be able to have medical records that has all the ways you have been treated over your lifetime.”
This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:
CORRECTION: February 14, 2018
A previous version of this article incorrectly indicated Stephen Cho is the vice president of Swellbox. In fact, he is the co-founder and head of business development at Swellbox.
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