Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Electronic Medical Records

So… more from the I’m going to college this fall and why does it have to be so complicated front, I turned in my immunizations at Student Health Services today in hopes that it would cause them to take the hold off my registration so I can pick up the one last class I’ve been wanting before classes, you know, start.

Turns out that they did, indeed get it the first time I turned it in but there are not “enough” immunizations on it. Not enough meaning there is only one MMR recorded. Now, I know for a fact that I received my second MMR when I was twelve because a.) I remember getting it and b.) they let me attend high school which (at least around here) they won’t if you don’t have record of two MMR’s.

So, how could this have happened? Electronic medical records, the newest brilliant brainchild of the medical establishment. Now, I’ll admit, that when I first heard of the movement towards EMR’s I thought it sounded awesome. In theory, it should make records more accessible, care more coordinated and errors less likely.

The problem is that they only works if you use them and use them all the way and all the time. In my case and at the clinic I’m at they didn’t. They started using the EMR system and didn't transfer any of the older files over. So, despite the fact that I’ve been getting my medical care in the same place since I was three months old, when I ordered my complete medical record, the immunization records weren’t there. Not only that, all of my (and my oldest son’s) records weren’t even AT the main clinic location. I finally ended up having to go to the separate file storage area at the satellite clinic where my doctor practices and have them go through my medical record page by page to find the record I needed.

Imagine my frustration when it turned out that the record we found wasn’t even the complete record. It was missing my first MMR and heaven knows where the record of that shot lives now.

So, in short, there’s no centralized records. The computers, as efficient as they sounded, don’t talk, even within the same clinic system. I have all my labor and birth records at the (associated!) birthing center, all of my E.D. records at the E.D., a select few of my records at the central clinic office (still in hard copy), my records from after 2005 in the EMR computer system, and the rest of them at the satellite clinic where my doctor actually practices (also still in hard copy). A far cry from the “centralized records” that were promised when they switched over to the EMR.

How did this happen? How did everything get so spread out? And what does it say about the coordination of care that most patients receive?

I’m generally healthy, so the inability to find my records is really nothing more than a minor annoyance, but what if I had a chronic condition? I’m pretty sure that there’s no way my records would transfer seamlessly between my primary care provider (the proposed “medical home”) and the specialists I’m seeing or vice versa the way that the EMR‘s were supposed to facilitate. As a matter of fact, I’d be lucky if they ever got transferred at all.

The only “coordinated care” I’ve ever gotten from the EMR system is a repetitive list of medications that I haven’t been on since 2005. So much for innovations in coordinated care. There has got to be a better way.


  1. Oh...Boy do I know how this sucks!!! When Eric joined the Army we had to switch pediatricians...which meant switching shot records. Luckily, we had them all in one place. But THEN, we had to transfer the records from doc #2 to a new doc in NY. And with some of the records transfered...they didn't all seem to be together anymore. My advice: every time you leave the doc, ask for a copy of that day's paperwork. Then take it home and put it in a file...Tedious, wastes your own space...but goodness gracious it means if something is "missing" between know you have it somewhere. :) I do this now with our stuff. I have a complete set of everything at home...and I add to it every time we visit a medical office.

  2. Maegan, that makes a lot of sense! I should probably do that for our kids. I'd hate to ever have to find all of my medical records, since I don't exactly go to the doctor regularly. I'm pretty sure the only records here are for my pregnancy and the tetanus shot I got 10 or 15 years ago.

    (Oh, and RC: "patience" should be "patients." :P I'll stop being a grammar Nazi

  3. Actually you rock. I thought there was something wrong with that but then I thought I was just being crazy. You do realize that you're the reason I'll be able to graduate college editor-lady.

  4. Matt mentioned something about that, too. And Daniel had me edit his paper. I'm beginning to see a flaw in my choice of

  5. Nice blog, Rachele. Enjoyable reading. :)