My Mom is an RN, and her job is to phone a set of patients with a certain chronic illness regularly to get their weight measurements. For this particular illness, sudden weight gain or loss can indicate a pending emergency, and that they should get to the hospital immediately.
Granny Linux is a neat idea from the standpoint of making the computer easy to use for people with limited technical skill, but the idea becomes really compelling when you think about tapping into its potential for medical care.
In my original blog entry I mentioned that my Mom had problems with a website; this was a site for her to record some medical information. Her doctor had asked her to keep track of it and bring in a report at her next visit. Unfortunately, the web application allowed entering the data easily enough, but when it came time to print, that's where we ran into trouble.
Needless to say, the fact that the computer got infected in the process was a minor nuisance compared with not being able to access the data.
Certainly, Linux would be beneficial at preventing the infection, popups, and so forth. However, the root problem of being able to track this medical data would be the same regardless of which OS she was using. The designer of the web app supports IE only, not Firefox (we even contacted him, and he reiterated that he would only support IE).
Now, Mom is pretty good with computers and just set up a spreadsheet. She knows how to use Excel quite well, and this gives her ultimate control over her data. But I imagine there are lots of people who couldn't do that, who would be cornered between IE's bugginess, the lack of support for Mozilla/Firefox by web app developers, and the cost and hassle of getting commercialware. For them, a pad of graph paper and a pen would be the most logical solution. :-/
This seems extremely lame to me. Computers ought to be good at helping people with stuff like this.
I think Granny Linux could do much, much better at this.
By and large, most of these applications are rather simple. Usually they're just logs of your daily exercise, meals, weight, temperature, blood glucose, or whatever. They need to let you type the info in each day, and then print out a summary on a weekly or monthly basis. Or maybe a meal or exercise planner, or perhaps tutorials or presentations about some aspect of your medical situation.
Inclusion of a suite of such apps in Granny Linux would be a no-brainer. After visiting the doctor, Granny could phone John, talk to him about her diabetes or heart condition or whatever (Granny always goes on about her health, even aside from the computer), and that the doctor told her all these things she has to track, and could the computer help her do this? John takes a look and finds that, indeed, Granny Linux can help with tracking blood glucose levels (actually it has the choice of three apps for various levels of sophistication, but he knows Granny will want the simplest one.) He asks if she'd like him to set it up, she says yes, and with two clicks he's installed it. Right there on the phone he walks her through use of it.
It occurs to me that the value could reach even further. Earlier I mentioned about how with some illnesses, abnormal measurements can indicate a problem. Imagine if the Granny Linux medical applications were able to detect these abnormalities and flag them, letting Granny, John, and/or her doctor know about the pending issue immediately. In my earlier post I mentioned about a toolbar applet that would blink on John's desktops if there was an error; imagine tying this in with Granny's medical tracking app, so that if her weight numbers are showing dangerous indication of fluid retention or whatever, it would flag John and he could take action. Of course, there's some privacy considerations here, but I guess John and Granny would balance that against the value of keeping her healthy.
Another thought is that there are TONS of organizations that are trying to find ways to help their people manage their health. Insurance companies, hospitals, state and federal health care non-profits, and so on. I would imagine these groups would be quite interested in something like this, that could give their members really good health management software for free, without incurring them with all the troubles that come with Windows. I could easily imagine them wanting to participate once the concept was proven and had a decent userbase.