Electronic records can save lives

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A program that reduced cardiac deaths by 73% can also help heart-attack patients to stay healthy years later, with better control of their lipid levels and blood pressure. This new innovation, however, is nothing more than electronic records. During acute care, the program from Kaiser Permanente linked together information from primary care doctors, cardiologists, pharmacists and nurses. Then in the second wave of the study, follow-up care was improved with electronic reminders about when tests or check-ups were due. The results are published this month in the American Journal of Managed Care.

The basic issue here is how well different doctors know what’s happening — the big picture — in a case that involves many medical experts. (Yesterday I wrote about nurses’ tips to ensure a safe hospital stay. You can read that post here.) Without linked records, specialists may not know about existing conditions that could alter your prognosis, or may not notice when you’ve missed an important diagnostic test. True, you might not be able to change the type of files used by your local hospital. But simple tricks like carrying a complete list of the medications you’re taking and a list of your allergies can help you to avoid some of the more serious slip-ups.