Throughout healthcare facilities large and small, offices are moving toward (or have already made it to) electronic records. This can be useful when it comes to coordinating care or having ready access to test results or emergency contact information.
But, wait! It’s not all perfect, and it’s not all going to be glitch-free.
Electronic record systems go “down,” and cannot be accessed. Data might be input incorrectly. Files have and probably still will get “lost.” And medical test reports and other forms that have to be manually input “into the system” can sit in a pile on an over-worked data entry administrator’s desk for days, with the result that someone who needs that information will not be able to “find it” until it’s been scanned in.
This past week, I’ve been grappling with several problems regarding medical records. And, although they were ironed out (well, mostly), the time I spent wading through these problems was frustrating and lengthy.
For example, in one case, my telephone number on a relative’s emergency contact form was input incorrectly by the admitting hospital. Two months ago. And, despite my repeated tries to have it corrected, it still has not been. So, hospital staff who use their own records to find my telephone number and who try to call it, cannot “find” me, leading to lots of confusion and delay.
I’ve also experienced “lost” records; lab reports that seem to vanish into the ether when transferred from one doctor’s office to another.
Once, I arrived at a major hospital’s eye department for my appointment, only to be told that I was a “no show” for my appointment, which was supposed to have taken place five days earlier. When I pointed out that that was impossible because five days earlier was a Saturday and the eye dept. was closed on that day, it took several frantic minutes of searching before the administration clerk was able to agree that, yes, the “system” had mis-scheduled me and that, yes, indeed, I was arriving on the correct day and time.
For those who are also “regulars” in the healthcare world, patients with new or ongoing health problems, these and other like stories are not new. I’m afraid they’ll still keep occurring. So, what do we do?
I keep a master copy of every lab, every medical exam report, and every test result that I’ve ever had. I hand carry copies to new doctor appointments, unless I double-check that records have been forwarded and received. I make sure that, if I call to make an appointment, reschedule an appointment, or ask a question that I get and write down the name of the person I speak with. In the case of being someone’s emergency contact, I also make sure that I have a copy of my authorization or some way of proving that I am, indeed, authorized to get information, etc. And, when there is a very complex snafu, I go beyond the front-office staff and contact the hospital or medical office/facility management and point out the problems and make, I hope, constructive suggestions.
Electronic records can give a false sense of security, that our health data will always be retrievable and correct. But we still have to do our part to safeguard this highly personal and important information. Also, we cannot overlook the human lesson in all of this data-driven drive – there is a person behind every key-stroke, and a person at the other end of the telephone (okay, eventually in the case of push-button menu-laden telephone calls!). By keeping this in mind, and connecting in an individual and human manner, we can help the situation immensely.
Blessings for the day!