One of the challenges of managing your health information is that it comes in so many forms and formats. It is not hard to find examples where the ball gets dropped. Here are a few examples that I recently encountered that demonstrate this challenge.
Recently, my uncle who lives in a remote part of Pennsylvania had a heart attack. Because the local hospital could not perform the required procedure, he was flown to a larger hospital. There he had a cardiac catheterization and stents were placed in the arteries that supply blood to his heart (coronary arteries). A day or two later when he was stable, he was taken by ambulance to the first hospital. We had been told by the cardiologist who placed the stents that 2 were placed. When we got to the first hospital after he was sent back there, the doctor who had reviewed his record from the second hospital said that he couldn’t find any documentation that any stents were placed. The next day when my uncle’s local cardiologist looked at the record, he said that he found documentation of only 1 stent being placed. It wasn’t until I was helping get things ready for his discharge home that I found 2 wallet cards, one for each stent, that were among the discharge papers from the second hospital mixed in the plastic bag that was sent with him. These cards specify the kind of stent, its size & location in the arteries of the heart. It would make better sense if this information would be in a more prominent place in the hospital chart so any doctor can easily find it!
Another example happened to me personally. I recently saw an orthopedic surgeon about persistent pain in my knee for several months. X-rays showed some arthritis but nothing very significant. After another month, I noticed that one spot on the knee was especially tender. Thinking that it could be a torn meniscus, the surgeon ordered an MRI. A few days after the test, he called & told me, other than the arthritis, it was normal. Well, because of continued pain that limited my activities, I saw a rheumatologist to whom I had the records from the orthopedic surgeon sent. After a few minutes, the rheumatologist asked if I knew the result of the MRI. After I told him that I was told it was normal, he showed me the report that indicated I had a small tear in the meniscus and some other abnormalities. He assured me that surgical repair was unnecessary, but it left me wondering why the surgeon never mentioned it. I believe he looked at the wrong report. I wonder how often that happens? In my case, it didn’t make a difference. But how often does it?
So, how do you make sure all your important medical information stays “attached” to you and can be easily found? The health care system should do this, but there are too many moving parts. As I said in my previous post things are slowly moving in the right direction. But the question is – What can we do now?
In my next post I’ll present some strategies that may help to ensure health record portability until the health care system catches up to the digital age.
Please share your experiences, ideas and comments.
For Your Health – Dr. Bob