Friday, January 15, 2010

Web-Based Medical Records: Dream or Nightmare?

Universally available electronic medical records is probably a pipe dream – at least for some time to come.

By “universally available” I mean medical records that are obtainable by anyone from anywhere, provided of course, that the person who wants access has the magic password and permission of the patient.

My understanding is that the only way to do this is with a Web-based system. A few hospitals and medical groups have such a system, although the records available are somewhat limited in most cases. For instance, patients and their doctors can access via the Web personal data like address and phone number, and certain test results, but they can’t access physician notes, OR notes or other test results.

Very few hospitals and medical groups do give patients access to their complete medical records, and despite initial misgivings – mostly by physicians – officials say it has worked well. Nurses with whom I’ve spoken say that it helps patients, families and caretakers to be more educated, more proactive and more responsible for their overall health care.

I see the value of Web-based access to all medical records or chronically ill patients who must see multiple doctors and undergo multiple tests and hospital admissions. Any one of the doctors can pull up test results or opinions of other specialists at anytime and from anywhere. Those in favor of total access say it saves physicians and nurses a great deal of time and avoids test duplication –both of which saves dollars.

I also see Web-based medical records as a terrific convenience for home health care nurses or any nurses involved in chronic disease management. Those who oversee the care of parents, relatives or friends who live down the block or cross-country can avoid hours of frustrating waits and the cost of duplicate tests. Being able to see test results and doctors’ notes online from their home, their cell phone or wherever gives patients and advocates all the time they need to understand and digest information about their conditions.

And for frequent fliers and other travelers, getting sick far away from home can be a less frightening experience if they know physicians anywhere in the world can access patients’ medical histories.

A couple of hospital systems in San Diego announced recently that they have taken the first steps toward what the story in the San Diego Union Tribune calls “the much touted but equally elusive national health records system.”

What do you think?

Do you like the idea of a national, Web-based medical records system?

Would such a system help or hinder your work?

What do you see as the advantages and/or disadvantages of universal access to medical records?

Have you had any experience with Web-based medical records?

Tell us what you think.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I do believe that Web based medical records have a place. Take facebook for instance one can access family and friends from all over the world and information sharing is limited o only those you want to have access. In the recent Haiti disaster many records are lost, how do we obtain these information without redoing test? Having a web based system that is accessible form all over the world will prevent duplication.
My current experience with Web based records is limited however I see that it has a place in a broader sense, the nurses in my place of employ enter there notes and the MD's, etc have access from all over the state. There will have to be more stringent protection, however it is worth looking into.