When there is a tragedy like the tornadoes in Lady Lake, Florida, or Hurricane Katrina, of course, I think about Electronic Medical Records. Even President Bush mentioned them during this State of the Union address last month. Whether or not you are a fan of his, you should know about EMRs.
The idea of keeping medical records electronically — on computers — has been around for a dozen years or more. But for the most part, those records have been local — meaning — within your doctors’ offices. Any doctor or other staffmember in that office can pull up records for appointments or insurance purposes, and more and more, these files include your actual medical records, test results, diagnoses, treatment assignments, prescriptions, etc, too.
Not surprisingly, perhaps, is the slow adoption rate of this technology. It’s expensive, both for the purchase of the machinery and software, and for the training of its users. The expense is getting started — and after that, it’s really a big cost savings to have the capability.
The big change — and the one that is controversial to some — is the idea of sharing those records on the internet so that anytime they need to be accessed, your doctors can get ahold of the records other doctors have kept about you. The benefits are many, including better health care for you, and reduced costs for everyone.
If you think of them in a case like Lady Lake, or Katrina — if all those victims’ records were kept digitally somewhere, then all those people who were moved to hospitals outside the area, or nursing homes or urgent care or wherever — their care would have been so much better because the receiving insitution would have known how to care for those patients.
The downsides to a system that shares all your records all relate to privacy and security issues. Who gets to see them? What if they get stolen (like identity theft)? Can insurance companies use them to turn down someone for insurance? Can a potential employer use them to refuse to hire someone? etc etc.
It’s all food for thought. If you have further interest, the citation in Wikipedia is really quite good: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electronic_medical_record
For those in Lady Lake — it’s too late for EMRs, but it’s most definitely a great time for us to keep them in our prayers.