Ilana Yurkiewicz looks at the ugly world of health records and how one of her patients kept getting harmed by the lack of information sharing:

While most hospitals in the United States today use electronic health records, they remain disparate, with hundreds of different interfaces and minimal data sharing from one care facility to the next. Today, less than half of hospitals electronically integrate data from other hospitals outside of their system, and only 30 percent of skilled nursing facilities share data outside their walls, according to the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC), a division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Without an easy way to get a patient’s full medical files, I must ask where their prior doctors were, have the patients sign a release form, fax it to the other hospitals, and receive stacks of papers in return. Then I dig in. Unable to use control-find on a stack of paper, I sift through several to hundreds of pages to find the few values of importance. If I’d like to see images, such as MRI or CT scans, it’s more involved: I request CDs, wait for them to be mailed over, walk them to our radiology department, fill out another form, and then wait another day or so until I can see them in the computer system. The more places the patients have gone, the more there is to unravel.

Posted by Matthew Loftus

Matthew Loftus teaches and practices Family Medicine in Baltimore and East Africa. His work has been featured in Christianity Today, Comment, & First Things and he is a regular contributor for Christ and Pop Culture. You can learn more about his work and writing at www.MatthewAndMaggie.org

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