Kaiser subscribers can access health records in a flash

by Lesley Politi on May 27, 2009

Kaiser is really ahead of the game on this one.  I can not tell you how many times I hear clients say they wish they had their medical records. This is a great idea.
By Bobby Caina Calvan



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Published: Thursday, May. 21, 2009 – 12:00 am | Page 8B
Last Modified: Thursday, May. 21, 2009 – 12:19 am

Electronic medical records, hailed as a bold and necessary new frontier in medicine, are taking another leap forward – even as many medical offices scramble to catch up.

Kaiser Permanente subscribers in Northern California now have access to most of their health records on pocket flash drives, a convenience the health system touts as a potential lifesaver.

“I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been in an emergency situation and people aren’t sure what their medical history is,” said Dr. Dennis Ostrem, an internist and assistant physician-in-chief at Kaiser‘s Sacramento Medical Center.

Hospital officials say it’s particularly useful when patients are on the road – perhaps on vacation or on a business trip – and find themselves in medical distress and need to give a doctor access to such things as drug allergies, lab results, X-rays, immunization records and recent hospitalization information, including diagnoses and treatment

The flash drives are $5, and updates can be uploaded free of charge, Kaiser said.

Imagine a 42-year-old Kaiser patient with high blood pressure and high cholesterol who suddenly develops chest pains while traveling in a region where Kaiser has no facilities.

At that point, “the decisions a physician makes are really important,” said Ostrem.

If the patient were carrying his records in a flash drive, an emergency room doctor would have instant access, Ostrem said, to the man’s electrocardiogram, his list of medications and other information.

Proponents of electronic health records say the paperless technology improves efficiency and safety, increasing doctors’ ability to confer and collaborate on treatment. The technology also flags possible dangerous drug interactions and potential health concerns.

But security experts remind consumers that their privacy could be at risk if they don’t use common sense in safeguarding their personal data, whether it’s stored on their home computers, online or in personal flash drives.

“It’s a lot like if your wallet falls out of your pocket,” said Brock Meeks, a spokesman for the Center for Technology and Democracy in Washington.

“Having your health records with you is a good thing, but people need to realize that there’s a compromise,” Meeks said. “Anytime you make anything more convenient, the drawback is that security goes down.”

Kaiser says the information is password-protected, and some information – such as sexual history among minors, HIV status, drug and alcohol abuse problems – is excluded from the flash drives.

The health system began rolling out the flash drives earlier this year in the Bay Area, before expanding to the Sacramento area. Hospital officials said “a couple thousand” subscribers have their medical records on the devices, which also double as key chains. Kaiser has more than 3 million members in Northern California.

Electronic medical records are a key topic in the discussion about overhauling the health care system. The Obama administration earmarked $19 billion as part of its stimulus package to help medical practices modernize their record keeping.

While institutions such as the Department of Veterans Affairs and Kaiser Permanente have rolled out sophisticated electronic systems, there is no national network that currently gives access to doctors outside of those systems.

Flash drives provide the portability that can bridge those shortcomings, Kaiser officials said. The flash drive, a USB device that doubles as a key chain, can be plugged into any computer and its contents read by widely available software.


This will not only help in medical emergency, but will help you be able to see different doctors for consults, pharmacy’s and in case you ever need to shop your medical insurance. In a lot of underwriting processes, carriers request your medical records to review. Which can sometime takes up to months to get from your doctor. Having a flash drive would speed that process way up.

Source: www.sacbee.com

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