Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Practicing Better Medicine?

A part of preparing to begin the process of medical school involves paperwork - a mountain of paperwork. This mountain is not Everest, but it is still a mountain. Ok, maybe a hill, but it was still more than I was expecting. Most of it was just, 'sign this document stating you will consent to allow other students to learn manipulation on you. Do you promise all this background information is true, etc.' A majority of the annoying stuff to fill out was health information. I've been vaccinated, but getting the proof of vaccination ended up being ridiculously round-about.

Finally I decided to call my pediatrician to get the records, I think off of the advice Neil gave me. As someone who has moved around a few times in recent years and a future medical professional, I am a strong advocate for a centralized health records system.

This concept is not a new one. Since the internet came into being, many of our 'sensitive' documents and information about our lives have found themselves online: banking information, insurance information, credit cards, investments, shopping habits, likes/dislikes and friends. Why not have a secure system in place where we can store our health histories? Moving from one part of the country to another would be much easier (for those who don't already have their health information organized). Going from specialist to specialist would no longer require a stack of paperwork to fill out, and needed information, like familial health history, might not slip through the cracks (did Uncle So-and-so have high blood pressure or COPD?).

Even having a centralized electronic health record (EHR) for a hospital/primary care facility could help improve quality of care by catching medical errors immediately or before the treatment plan begins. When prescribing medication, walk through screens could increase patient safety as drug incompatibilities and adverse affects can be highlighted before the pen reaches the Rx pad.

On a wider level, health trends and treatments could be categorized and implemented much faster if the EHR were used in conjunction with evidence based medicine.
Privacy has been cited as a concern, but with proper password/id protection, it shouldn't be a problem. Actually, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), set up in 1996 not only helped to protect patients' right to privacy, but also set up guidelines for a paperless, centralized system of electronic health records. I have seen software systems used in academics and in medical practices that allow for information to be shared without compromising privacy standards.

More can be done to assuage privacy concerns, but I believe that the benefits of having a centralized EHR system outweigh any costs. What do you think?


  1. Good thoughts. Most of this is in the process of being implemented (at least in the larger health care centers/corps). And it definitely makes things a lot more convenient if you can have all the medical info stored in one spot. Some of the problems ive seen are related to cost and compatibility.
    These programs are uber expensive, lots of the smaller hospitals/primary care docs don't have the money to get EMR's.
    Also, if you go to Wishard, then to the VA, and then to Methodist/IU, though they under IUHealth (formerly known as Clarian), you will find 3 different EMR programs, all of which are not compatible w/ eachother. It's really kinda stupid.
    Anyways, I agree w/ you. EMRs would make life for docs a helluva a lot easier. I'm not sure a central one would be best, but at least a way to make all these individual programs somewhat compatible.

    Also, congrats on getting into Med School, and hope all is well.


  2. Thanks Jes! Yah, I actually had a lot of luck getting into DO schools. I'm excited to start in the fall! :)

    When it comes to the post, I feel like IUHealth (I'm glad they changed the name, it makes more sense... but anyways) should implement a singular EMR. I read about them being really expensive at the onset, but wouldn't the benefits outweigh the costs in the long run? Thanks for your comment!