Medical history available at the click of a mouse

The next time you see your doctor, he might not be carrying a manila folder with your name on it.

President Obama signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act into law in February, providing $19 billion in incentives for hospitals to incor-porate electronic medical records in health care.

Now, Jennie Lou, M.D., pro-fessor and director of medical informatics at NSU’s College of Osteopathic Medicine, said that paperless patient history is probably the hottest topic in healthcare.

Lou said that one of the benefits of these kind of records is that they prevent lost records and duplicate medical tests.

“Say you’re traveling to Las Vegas and you get sick,” she said. “Who’s going to find your paper records? There’s no way. But with electronic medical records, anybody you authorize will be able to pull your record and know what medications you’re on, what complications you have had.”

Lou said that the majority of NSU’s clinics use NextGen, a software program for electronic medical record use. NSU’s clinics started using this method three years ago.

Medical students are also learning how to use the program.

“We just received a grant from Health Resources and Services Administration to provide a simu-lation lab where students are using robots to practice their clinical skills,” Lou said. “In that lab, students are going to be using electronic medical records. So, they’re getting used to having the computer system instead of a traditional paper one.”

Bruce Peters, D.O., professor and medical director at the College of Osteopathic Medicine, said that virtual medical records give patients greater access to health information, but has potential for violation of privacy.

“You really have no control over how the information is used or recorded or transmitted,” he said. “Once you say something, it’s no longer one-on-one. You think it’s one-on-one, but it’s really one-on-a million, or one on an unlimited number of people that may be looking at the same information at the same time. “You can encrypt things on your side, but it’s hard to encrypt things on the other person’s or patients’ side of things.”

Another innovation in health-care is telemedicine, which Lou said is the use of technology to solve patients’ problems via distance.

“It’s gaining a lot of momentum,” Lou said. “Patients seem to love it. Doctors are getting more and more comfortable as the technology is becoming more and more mature and the confidentiality issues, privacy issues, security issues are being solved at the higher level.”

Lou said that NSU clinics have not used telemedicine, but that there has been discussion among NSU doctors of using it to treat patients in prison.

Robert Hasty, D.O., assistant professor of internal medicine, said that he doubts whether remote procedures will ever take off because of coordination and backup issues. However, he believes that some medical fields can benefit from it.

“While there will probably always be regional disparities, the solution will be how to efficiently deliver available resources to those who need it in remote areas and I think this is best accomplished by policy, productivity increases and incentives,” he said.

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