The new push to move everyone to an Electronic Medical Record (EMR) is not going well. For the record, I still carry my USB stick clipped to my belt, but it is becoming more obvious that this idea needs a lot of work.
A good example is pacemakers. There are several major pacemaker manufacturers, and even though all pacemakers function in the same way, a pacemaker controller belonging to one company will NOT control another company’s pacer. The reasoning behind this is “protocols”.
The protocols are, in short, the pacemaker’s programming - the electronic brains of the pacer. And those protocols are super secret – you’d have better luck strolling into the White House uninvited than you would finding out what those protocols are! Because that set of computer commands are what makes these pacers different (and better!) and if another pacemaker company learns what they are, we loose our competitive edge… and probably some pacemaker sales.
So if your hospital wants to offer the best pacemaker technology available, you have to sign a contract with almost every major pacemaker company. After all, one pacer does not fit all. So that means multiple contracts, multiple payments, and multiple pacemaker controller units – when a lot of cost could be avoided if everyone would decide to pool their technology. But that would mean giving up the protocols… fat chance that will happen!
And don’t think current technology can insure your records are 100% safe. Hackers break into computer systems all the time, even medical databases. And don’t forget the recurring controversy over Electronic Voting Machines!
All is not lost, there are always technological advances happening that will improve medical care. St. Jude Medical is introducing a new pacemaker monitor that is completely wireless! Home monitoring of your pacemaker is pretty easy now: it’s painless and takes about 10 minutes. But with this new model, it’s wireless. You really just have to be close to the device, and it can even test the pacer while you are sleeping!
If you have a medical emergency that renders you unable to speak, your options are limited: You can either use the traditional necklace/bracelet with your health information, or you can opt to carry a USB stick with your medical information. Carrying the USB is becoming less and less of an option; a lot of medical providers refuse to insert them into their computers; a USB stick can carry a computer virus just as easy as they can carry your medical records. (I also have a pocket sized folder in my back pocket chock full of my medical information – everything you want to know about the Funky Heart!)
But there is a another option coming to the market: an Emergency Data Link. The Data Link features a small electronic screen – press the button and it activates with your medical information!