The medical profession is being dragged kicking and screaming out of the Nineteenth century and into the Information Age. President Bush has forced this issue by ensuring that physician’s offices, hospitals and healthcare providers of all types must implement fully paperless electronic medical records (EMR’s) by 2014. More imminently, those with these EMR’s must provide off site storage of records in online medical record repositories.
Consumers are already doing this for themselves. Online and at home personal health records (PHR’s) are gaining in popularity. These consumer controlled systems allow patients to store everything from past medical histories to legal documents to MRI images for later recall and review. All of these systems require that the consumer or their physician input the data (online, by keyboard, or by fax/scanner).
Another group of consumer directed products are the portable medial records (PMR’s). These database systems reside on wallet sized CD-ROM’s or USB Flash Drives and allow the consumer to carry their records with them in case of emergency or disaster evacuation. Like the PHR’s, data is entered in the PMR’s by the consumer or their doctor.
Each of these systems has a critical failing. EMR’s are site specific and unless synchronized with the medical record repository, only contains the data generated in that office. Further, these systems are not available to Emergency Rooms and Disaster Medical Professionals when the information is needed most. Further, consumers are uncomfortable with their doctor uploading their medical records to a medical record repository such as the Social Security Administration or other insurance company.
PHR’s address the problem of site specificity, but medical professionals are suspicious of the systems because the consumer has the ability to alter or omit portions of the record. Consumers are like that they control the destination of the records, but PHR’s do not fulfill the current requirement for medical record repository storage of EMR data. Consumers are also suspicious of records stored online that may be accessed without their knowledge.
PMR’s address the problem of access (the data is literally on your person), but what about the problems of repository storage and data alteration/omission?
The missing link between PHR’s and EMR’s is a PMR that synchronizes with the export data stream of the EMR through the USB port and then uploads to a repository and a PHR of the consumer’s choice from the PMR in an unaltered and unalterable state. Such a device would allow consumers to carry records between doctors, shortening the time doctors wait for reports from other doctors. Consumers would retain complete control of where their medical information goes on the internet, what agencies have access to the data and how it is used. In the event of an emergency or disaster evacuation, the consumer would have their medical record with them that, because it is unalterable, would be accepted by medical professionals.
Just a dream? Not any longer. One PMR new to the market promises these functions and more. If this PMR fulfills its promise, the missing link in health informatics wil have been found.