Have you ever wondered what your doctor or nurse is busy typing into the computer during your office visit? Well, I certainly have.
Your electronic health record (EHR) or electronic medical record (EMR) is a computerized or digital version of what used to be the paper-based medical health chart kept on file at your doctor’s office. It contains information about your medical history, laboratory reports and the medications you are taking. During your office visit, it will be updated with information such as your pulse and blood pressure, your current symptoms or complaints, diagnosis and treatment plan, and any medication changes.
These electronic health records are designed to facilitate sharing your health information with other health care providers, as well as your pharmacy.
An increasing number of health care providers are offering patients an online “patient portal” that gives you easy access to your health information. From here, you can get information about medications, lab tests, recent physician visits and even reorder your prescriptions.
This all sounds great, but there’s a problem: Since many people have multiple doctors, they also likely have several EHRs. Unfortunately, most of the time, there isn’t a way to consolidate all this information in one place. This makes it difficult for any single health record system to contain complete and accurate information.
The lack of “interoperability” of these systems is a huge issue, especially when you consider the fact that your pharmacy has a completely different system for the prescriptions they dispense to you. And if you use more than one pharmacy, there is a chance that not even your pharmacist really knows all of the medications you are taking at any time. This lack of a complete and accurate medication list can lead to serious consequences, like drug interactions and adverse drug events.
About 1.3 million visits to the emergency room are made every year as a result of adverse drug events, according to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). And about 350,000 patients are further hospitalized.
So the question “Who’s minding your medications?” is of utmost importance. Because there are loopholes between different doctors and even between pharmacies, an accurate picture of the medications you are taking can get lost. Learn how you can protect yourself by using a personal medication record to keep track of your medications in my next column.
Dave Walker, RPh, is a pharmacist and a member of the MedShadow medical advisory board. He has practiced in multiple pharmacy settings as a pharmacy owner, hospital director of pharmacy, district manager for a pharmacy staffing agency, and currently director of pharmacy at a rural, nonprofit clinic and pharmacy. You can follow him on Twitter @drwalker_rph.