Maintaining accuracy in healthcare records is as important as ever. Most people don’t really think about their medical records, especially if they have a good relationship with their doctors. Electronic health records (EHRs) weren’t even on my radar, even though I have worked in healthcare. I was in for a shock.
Electronic Health Record Surprises
A cross-country move necessitated a provider change, so I ordered a hard copy of my health records to hand-carry it to my new physician. When I looked at the contents, I was dismayed. There were inaccuracies in family health history, in prescribed medications — and frighteningly — gaps in the list of medication allergies. And, lab results were listed — for tests I had not had!
The repercussions could have been catastrophic if the errors had gone unnoticed.
Is Your EHR Accurate?
With many providers accessing and recording medical information, it’s more important than ever to be absolutely sure that those records are accurate. To help with this task, create and maintain a personal health record of your own. Why? So you have a record that you know is accurate. A single error could be duplicated repeatedly by diverse providers, like a laboratory, an imaging center, a hospital pharmacy, your physician specialist or even a hospital emergency room. Keeping your own personal health record can help you counteract any errors that come up.
100,000+ EHRs — and Counting
EHRs are here to stay. According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, more than 100,000 healthcare providers benefited from the Medicare and Medicaid Electronic Healthcare Record (EHR) Incentive Programs. Participating organizations included professionals and hospitals. Many other, non-Medicare/Medicaid providers have switched to some form of electronic health record (EHR) system. If they haven’t, it is only a matter of time until they do.
The MEDCITY News posted a recent blog article, Electronic medical records not a panacea for patient safety problems, stating that data entry is the cause for most common patient file errors. You might think that an error in your height and weight is no big deal, right? That’s true, unless you need a medication that relies on those stats for dosages, like a diabetes medication. The ECRI Institute‘s recent study, ECRI Institute Releases Top 10 Health Technology Hazards for 2013, supports this view. It ranks patient data mismatches as the number 4 issue in their Top 10 list.
Being a Good Consumer Applies to Healthcare Too
There are some lessons we can learn about being careful stewards of our own health information. Your medical providers are responsible for updating, maintaining and securing your EHRs every step of the way. Nevertheless, we all should be good consumers. Review and correct (if needed) your healthcare records at least once a year.
Contact your health provider today and ask them for a copy to review. It’s also a good idea to have your own personal health record, for many reasons. Here are some tips:
- When you travel, take the medical records with you on a thumb drive. If you need care, you won’t have to rely on your memory, which is especially important if you are ill or need help in an emergency and cannot communicate easily.
- For international travel, having a scanned copy of your records could save your life if you have a medical emergency when you are out of your home country.
- Make it part of your family emergency planning. No one wants to think they will be part of a weather-related disaster or a fire that requires evacuation out of your home. It’s just a good idea to keep family medical records in a “Go Box,” with copies of your home insurance, birth certificates, and financial and social security records.
Take good care of yourself. Add checking your EHRs — and keeping your own personal health records — part of your To-Do list for this year.
Diana Ost is a deputy editor for Tech Page One. Prior to this gig, Diana wrote and edited web copy for Dell.com about topics ranging from cloud computing to big data. Diana is also a photographer and recorded musician. Follow Diana on Twitter @DianaAtDell.