Access to Medical Records When Traveling

Larry Magid published an insightful commentary that highlights the benefits of electronic records as well as some of the shortfalls. Once medical records are in a digital form, transmission, storage, searching and filtering becomes much easier for hospital personnel. However, it’s also well known that data entry can take longer than with paper records, particularly during the time that it takes doctors and administrators to be trained in using new systems. For a patient, in this case Larry Magid, the benefit was in being able to access his electronic records while traveling internationally where he looked up his medications and arranged for a phone consultation with a local doctor who arranged for a new prescription.

“That service…has made me a smarter healthcare consumer.”

While he praised the emergence of electronic medical records (EMRs), he also raised a couple of key issues that reflect the shortfall of a hospital-centric EMR system.

“I’m bothered that there is no easy way for my other health care providers to access that data or incorporate their data about me into the same database.”

and,

“If someone were to show up unconscious at an emergency room, chances are the doctors will have no way to access that person’s records, which could lead to the possibility of missing important diagnostic information and the risk of a dangerous drug interaction.”

Fortunately, solutions are now available to individuals who travel and that lies in the patient-centric personal health records (PHRs). In many cases, patients enter the information in to their personal records, however, systems are coming onto the market where peripheral instrumental data can be collected and stored in these systems as well.

To our knowledge there are no PHRs that can deal with an unconscious patient unless the patient is carrying some kind of access to their records on their person. The risk to the patient lies in exposing their entire record unnecessarily. Services are also emerging that enable patients to carry a flash drive, smart card, or medical card with their health information. Drawbacks exist for any of these systems if they are not tied to an EMR, PHR, or some database that enable these records to be updated. myLifeLog, however, is a comprehensive PHR that does indeed cater to updating emergency records automatically and maintains patient privacy through its unique access, whether a patient is unconscious or not.

As technology continues to evolve there will be easier, faster, and better approaches to sharing, maintaining, and storing health information. It’s an exciting time in healthcare.

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