Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Vital Communication

“The future is here. It’s just not widely distributed.” (William Gibson)

The resident in Emergency is recording my blood pressure over and over again. And she is carefully recording the results – by writing on her hand. My medical history is recorded by at least seven different individuals as I move from Emergency to a holding unit to a ward. And each time I have to repeat the same information, and each time the nurse or doctor makes written notes on separate sheets of paper that are added to a big, fat binder.

The doctors must have fantastic memories because they listen to me talk about my symptoms but don’t write anything down until after we’ve finished talking. And they refer to scraps of paper when they pass along information about test results to make sure they've got the right patient.

The recordkeeping system belongs to the Dark Ages. And yet, the hospital has some amazing technology at its disposal – echocardiogram, 24-hour monitoring and video telemetry, portable x-ray machines, CAT scans.

Why can’t some of these technological advances be applied to recordkeeping? Wouldn’t it save doctors and nurses immense amounts of time if they could scan the bar code on my wrist band and immediately access my medical history and my test results? Imagine if they actually typed information on their portable notepad so that information was easy to read and integrated into one easy-to-access file.

We have the technology. But it’s unevenly distributed. And, unfortunately, organizations find it easier to apply technology to isolated situations than to integrate it into their routine ways of work.

It is happening. Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto has developed an in-house iPhone app that gives physicians secure, remote access to patient records, test results, vital statistics, and medical literature from its vast internal data network.

That’s wonderful news for patients who want to ensure that vitally-important information is accurately communicated.


Stephanie V said...

So, it's true, when we get right down to it, humans would rather be low-tech and hands-on.

Penny said...

Low-tech is fine as long as it is effective. Unfortunately, the hospital's recordkeeping struck me as being hugely inefficient with enormous potential for error. I would much prefer the addition of technology to ensure accurate,timely recordkeeping, which also freed up the doctors'/nurses' time to heal their patients.

Jen said...

Our doctor's office just installed computer terminals in all the rooms so they keep all their records in there now. They don't even hand write prescriptions or blood test orders or anything. She just clicks a button, prints it off, and then signs it. It's kinda cool!

PS Hope you are feeling better!