Add Electronic Data Collection to the burdens the ACA has added to each of us. Now we must monitor our personal data for hacking, miss-use and mistakes.

The idea of maintaining one’s historical data in an easy to access place where it will always be available is appealing. Whether it is one’s financial records, tax information or family photos, list of friends and contacts or even entertainment it’s becoming easier to maintain any or all of that information in an easily accessible place.

Add to that list the collection, maintenance and storage of all our personal medical records and you have a life full of history at your finger tips. doesn’t that sound appealing? Can you imagine being able to easily look up every medical checkup you’ve ever had, every lab result or every x-ray you’ve ever had and every procedure and every prescription you’ve ever had or taken. Wouldn’t that be convenient not only for your own use but for family members who may be responsible for you, someday.

The ACA included provisions which mandated all providers move to electronic record keeping. The stated goal of the idea (mandate) was to improve efficiency and outcomes of healthcare encounters by being able to better maintain, track and share data between providers. Makes sense doesn’t it?

The implementation of this ACA mandate was not easy nor has it been completed by every provider in the United States. Many small providers or rural providers lacked the resources and capacity to quickly comply. Large providers may have had more resources or better access to technology to help them comply but they also had much larger patient base with huge amounts of data to input.

Your humble author has written and spoken many times about the concern we all should have about this vast collection of “very personal” medical data being stored in a single data base and the ease in which it can be shared. Why was I and still am concerned?

Events, briefly reported in the news, have proven that security is the reason why we should all be concerned or at least not surprised when our own personal data is stolen by hackers or internal evil-doers. Let’s face it, hackers have already demonstrated their ability to get into and steal data from the US Government Personnel Records as well as banks, credit card issuers, credit reporting agencies, Sony, Facebook, Google, and dozens of insurance companies.

Why would we think that our personal medical history, stored by our personal doctor, local lab or local hospital, would be better protected than the biggest tech companies, Insurers and banks in the country not to mention the United States government, itself?

Well, let’s add one more concern to collection and storage of our personal health information. That would be incorrect data.

That’s right, just simple mistakes of data input that might influence a provider to make a draw an incorrect conclusion which could lead to an incorrect diagnosis and worse treatment for a patient. Sounds too simple to worry about, I know. But think about the impact of adding or omitting a single word from the input of data in a patients record.

Let’s say that a Doc is trying to type or dictate that “The patient has a history of high blood pressure.” but instead it gets entered in the records as “The patient has no history of high blood pressure.” You can probably think of many other examples which could be more serious or at least more embarrassing.

Such as, a woman, age 34, goes to her doctor presenting symptoms of nausea, fatigue, and bloating. The doctor runs a panel of tests and after review enters his thoughts into the record “Blood tests reveal no blah, blah, blah but that the patient, Mrs. Jones, tested positive to being pregnant’. The potential problem is that Mrs. Jones’s husband had a vasectomy 5 years earlier. You can imagine the discussion that followed.

But, the doctor had an exceptionally high number of patients to see that day, was rushing to get through and in addition was trying to get finished in time to go watch his 14 year-old son play baseball that afternoon. The record should have stated “Blood tests revealed no blah-blah including pregnancy”. I don’t need to explain further the complications this mistake could cause Mrs. Jones.

Truthfully, we should be more concerned with hackers and evil-doers than mistakes in input. The hackers will use our information for evil and the results could be far more harmful, except maybe for Mrs. Jones.

So, what do we do?  There is probably little that any of us can do. If your general provider has a website on which patients are allowed to access their own data then we should access it from time to time. For instance, my provider’s group provides me access to what they call “My Chart”. I go there from time to time, generally after getting an email from them prompting me to do so. These records available on your provider’s website provide a good means to at least try to verify that your data is accurate. If nothing else you can verify what is says about the Rx you take, your next appointment or just the accuracy of your date of birth. These sites generally allow you to print your information which can be handy if traveling out of country or for a provider not able to access the data.

The easy access to helpful personal health information is a benefit when protected properly. It’s just that no one can guarantee us that they can protect our information. There’s nothing you or I can do about the security of our data or that our data is collected in the first place.

Over the past 30 years I’ve stated many times that the concept of Managed Care is really designed to provide Insurers a means to manage their cost and it’s up to us to actually manage our care. Electronic records are one more aspect of our care which we must manage if we want it to be accurate and safe.

In this case we all are subject to the same risks so once again I say; we’re all in this together.

Until next week.

Mark Reynolds, RHU
559-250-2000
mark@reynolds.wtf
It means “Walk the Faith”.

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