Katrina shows need for e-health records

Katrina shows need for e-health records

Summary: With no medical records available for the vast majority of Katrina victims, the work of medical practioners has been made immeasurably more difficult, Mike Leavitt, secretary of Health and Human Services, told an e-health conference today“If there was ever a case for [electronic health records], this disaster underscores the need,

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With no medical records available for the vast  majority of Katrina victims, the work of medical practioners has been made immeasurably more difficult, Mike Leavitt, secretary of Health and Human Services, told an e-health conference today, Government Health IT reports. “If there was ever a case for [electronic health records], this disaster underscores the need,” he said.

Leavitt said that in one instance, a patient he visited earlier this week who left home with a variety of pills could not help clinicians come up with a match for those prescriptions from the pills. That’s because extreme heat in the New Orleans Superdome, which housed 25,000 refugees for five days, had fused the drugs together, he said.

Although some medical experts have warned of catastrophic medical events following Katrina, such as an outbreak of West Nile Virus, Dr. Frederick Cerise, secretary of the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals, said he was more concerned about refuges with chronic medical conditions such as cancer not getting the treatment they need because of a lack of medical records.

 If records were available electronically, good information could be made available very quickly - which might be the difference between  life and death.

Francois de Brantes, the health care initiatives program leader for General Electric’s Corporate Health Care and Medical Services, said the difference between electronic and paper health records after Katrina was best illustrated by the time it took to transfer records for patients in Veterans Affairs Department hospitals in the Gulf Coast compared with the records of patients in private hospitals.

It took the VA about 100 hours to transfer electronic health records for its all patients in the South, while it will take thousands of hours for the private sector to reconstitute paper medical records, de Brantes said.

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Topics: Government US, Health

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