March 16, 2012
Conduct an informal poll on any airplane and you will find a mix of people traveling for business and leisure. While these travelers are away from home, most of them will be separated from their medical records, which remain trapped on paper and hard drives at their primary care provider’s offices. At best, not having access to health records is a minor inconvenience. In a worst-case scenario, it could be a matter of life or death. Based off a true story, our friend “Jason” experienced firsthand how electronic health records (EHR) are helping save time, paperwork, money and even lives…
Jason, a Kansas City resident, had just seen his primary care provider and had blood work done due to constant thirst and weight gain. The next day, he traveled to Phoenix for a three week business trip, giving no thought to the results of his blood work. Back in Kansas City, the lab results indicated that he may be diabetic.
Jason’s primary care provider ordered more lab tests to diagnose Jason’s condition and left a note in Jason’s medical chart instructing the front desk staff to call Jason and schedule another visit.
In Phoenix two weeks into his stay, Jason started experiencing nausea, and he scheduled an appointment with a doctor in Phoenix. After filling out paperwork, Jason explained his symptoms to the doctor and shared that he had lab work done but had not received the results. Jason’s doctor’s office in Kansas City was closed that day, so the results of the earlier blood test remained a mystery. As a result, the doctor in Phoenix decided to draw more blood. The next day, Jason experienced a diabetic coma.
Imagine instead if Jason’s primary care provider utilized an ONC-ATCB certified EHR. When his new symptoms cropped up, Jason’s provider in Phoenix would have had access to his health records and would have seen the lab results instantly, resulting in the proper treatment and avoiding serious complications and a trip to the hospital for Jason. Even after-hours, Jason’s Phoenix provider could have begun immediate treatment for diabetes.
This scenario is one that could happen to anyone.
The Meaningful Use incentives, which are part of the HITECH act, incentivize the adoption of interoperable EHRs that help combat this very scenario. While the adoption of these systems is being driven by monetary incentives, the real incentive for providers is being able to make better informed decisions for the patients resulting in increased quality of care. Any physician who doubts the impact an EHR might have on patient outcomes need only consider Jason’s experience.