It is shocking to read on the CBC News today that LifeLabs has been hacked with an ensuing leak of information on 15 million LifeLabs customers including email addresses, passwords, medical records, et cetera. This is not good news. LifeLabs is a private medical laboratory business that has provided employment for members of my family and which is reputable, and generally reliable. It’s seriously unfortunate that the breach of information has occurred but it’s obvious (if implied) from the news source that it was a case of cyber blackmail, something that can easily happen to any company.
I had LifeLabs online access to my medical records years ago but in the last few years I’ve used VIHA (Island Health) labs exclusively, mostly the lab in Cumberland. Very convenient. Last time we were there (on Monday morning) the tech turned us on to MyHealth which is a new (to us anyway) service to allow patients access to our own medical records including lab and imaging results. This service is equivalent to the service offered by LifeLabs. It’s very comprehensive and I love it. We were able to access online records of our Monday morning Cumberland lab visit by early in the afternoon! Spiffy! So, I have an appointment with my GP tomorrow and I’ll already have looked at all my numbers and will be able to refer to them intelligently with my doctor. Carolyn and I have done a fair bit of research on myeloma, my bone marrow cancer, and understand what the numbers mean to some extent. Because I have only one kidney, the creatinine levels in my blood are of particular interest to us. They measure kidney function, something that can be impaired by myeloma but also by the chemo drugs I’m taking. My numbers show that my kidney is almost functioning normally again! Have a look at the graph below.
For an old researcher like me this is exciting, especially since it’s about my own blood work! Referring to the graph, you’ll see that on January 25th 2017, my creatinine level was 106 umol/L (which means micromoles per litre). That is above the reference range (60-100 mol/L), but not terribly so. Now see what happened in April 2018. There was a slight jump in my creatinine levels, but that was just the start of things going really wonky. By May of 2019 my creatinine levels began to spike up. In late September and during October my creatinine levels were all over the map. I think the radical drop from 134 to 103 umol/L from October 25th to the 29th was very likely because of a prednisone infusion on October 26th. On December 2nd, my creatinine levels were at 137 umol/L and by two days ago on Monday had dropped to 110 umol/L, almost back to normal.
This graph only goes back three years. If it went back further you’d find other times when I had spikes in my creatinine levels, not surprising since I lost my left kidney to cancer in 2002. For instance, in 2008 I went in for a blood test (not shown on the graph) and my creatinine levels were 114 umol/L, (within the reference range which at that time was 70-120 umol/L and not the 60-100 umol/L that it is now. Why the reference range changed, I have no idea). That probably wasn’t a spike, but it shows that my creatinine levels were generally above the reference range or very near it.
What I find really interesting about this graph is that I seem to be able to see immediately the effects of certain treatments on things like creatinine levels. I’m now definitely in a better position to ask the right questions of my medical team.
I’m sure medical professionals may have some doubts about to value of making this kind of information available to patients. I’m sure some patients might just go off the rails if they see lab results in MyHealth that are in red (indicating something abnormal is going on). Overall, I think this is a good move on the part of VIHA but I’d sure like to hear what the pros have to say about it.
In the meantime, if you’re a LifeLabs customer, good luck. There are resources you can access if you feel your medical records may be compromised. Check out the news reports on this. It’s all over the CBC and Facebook.