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CIO Unplugged – 11/15/08

November 15, 2008 Ed Marx No Comments

The views and opinions expressed in this blog are mine personally, and are not necessarily representative of Texas Health Resources or its subsidiaries.

Now It’s Personal—the EMR Imperative
By Ed Marx

Given my affinity for pushing myself physically (some would say punishing), I am proactive with prevention. For instance, 6 months prior to the Ironman, I underwent a battery of cardiovascular and VO2 tests to ensure I was healthy enough to compete at an elite level. Like most people, I am diligent about annual physicals and eager to compare my year-over-year results in order to make necessary, lifestyle adjustments.

During my most recent physical, the nurse kept rechecking my pulse until I explained why it was only 40 beats per minute. The subsequent EKG put everything in perspective. The physician then put a smile on my face when he declared that the digital exam was no longer necessary given the advances in prevention and prediction. They drew blood, collected fluid, and I was out the door in less then one hour. Sweet.

A week passed and still no test results. I thought, I could look them up myself if we had a personal health record deployed. I comforted myself with the hope that in a year or so we probably would. My assistant called the physician’s office on my behalf to check into the results status. After a few days of phone tag, the nurse urged her to have me set a follow-up visit to get the disturbing results in person. I immediately called the office and found that my lab results indicated serious issues from cancer to high cholesterol. I made the follow-up appointment.

Sitting on the exam table, nervously awaiting the news, I contemplated my uncertain future. My wife and I were nearing the empty nest stage, and we had grand plans to exploit our impending freedom. I then thought about walking my daughter down the aisle some day. Will I still be around? I wanted to do an Ironman with my son and attend his college graduation. Trying not to let anxiety rule, I prayed.

The physician came in and reviewed all the results in the paper chart. He paced back and forth, scratching his head. And then he said it. “I am really sorry Mr. Marx, but another patient’s lab results were inadvertently placed into your chart. You’re fine. In fact, your results are rather remarkable for someone your age, yet understandable considering your lifestyle choices.”

I left that appointment on an emotional rollercoaster. Relieved but angry, bummed yet hopeful—and highly sympathetic for the person with the terrible lab results. Then I contemplated the pushback, locally and nationally, on EMRs. The opposition cites the potential for automation errors. Excuse me? What about manual, paper-based errors? My experience only boosted my ardent sense of support for an EMR. I will push for automation because no patient should experience what I did when an antidote exists.

My physician is now in the queue to implement an EMR. Demand the same of your physicians. Fight for patient needs. You are in the position to influence.

Ed Marx is senior vice president and CIO at Texas Health Resources in Dallas-Fort Worth, TX. Ed encourages your interaction through this blog. (Use the “add a comment” function at the bottom of each post.) You can also connect with him directly through his profile pages on social networking sites LinkedIn and Facebook, and you can follow him via Twitter – User Name “marxists.”

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