What you need to know now about New York's ambitious statewide plan for electronic medical records.

John Fisher
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Stopping Medical Injustice
What is the statewide plan for electronic medical records and why should you care?  Under the ambitious new plan in New York State, your medical records will be easily accessible by your physician or hospital whether you happen to need them at a hospital in Niagara Falls or a doctor's office on the tip of Long Island.

This is how it will work: your medical records will be sent to a central database known as the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology and the records of 20 million patients will be accessible to medical providers throughout New York State.  Regardless of where you happen to be, a physician or hospital will have easy access to the medical records showing your recent blood tests, results of EKGs and your vital signs at your last doctor's visit.  This new plan has been described as a sort of "highway system for medical information".

How about an example of this "highway system for medical information" at work in a real-world situation? Mr. Jones has a MRI of his back at Horton Memorial Hospital in Goshen and two days later, he presents with severe back pain at Crystal Run Medical Clinic in Middletown. Mr.Jones tells the physician at Crystal Run Medical Clinic that he just had a MRI of his back two days earlier, but the imaging report is not accessible. The physician at the clinic may call the hospital to ask that they fax the MRI report, but if the medical records department of the hospital is closed, the physician will not be able to get the record.

Why does this matter? Let's assume that the MRI of the back shows an abscess (a pus-filled mass caused by infection) that is encroaching upon Mr. Jones's spinal cord.  The abscess will grow rapidly untl it completely cuts off the blood supply to the spinal cord and this can result in permanent damage to the spinal cord resulting in paralysis.  The physician at the Crystal Run Medical Clinic needs the MRI report at the time that he is seeing Mr. Jones in the office, not two or three days later when permanent, irreversible damage to the spinal cord has occurred.  If the statewide central database is accessible to this physician, he can get the results of the MRI anytime day or night and within seconds of requesting the report on his computer.  PROBLEM SOLVED and catastrophe averted!  The physician wil get the results of the MRI when he needs it and Mr. Jones will the get the emergency medical treatment that his condition calls for.

New York's ambitious new $129 million plan calls for the linking of medical records from thousands of medical providers and 20 million patients by 2014.  Under this plan, patients can refuse statewide access to their patients and consumers can access the logs that identify who has looked at their medical information.  With this new statewide system for increasing access to medcal records, the privacy rights of patients can actually be improved by having a system for logging when and who had access to a consumer's medical records.

The electronic medical records system planned by New York State is a WIN, WIN FOR PATIENTS by improving access to their medical records with ease and efficiency while significantly improving the ability of patients to determine who has viewed their medical records and when.  Furthermore, for those consumers uneasy about this system, they have the right to opt out and remain in the dark ages.

All things considered, the state plan for the easy and efficient dissemination of medical records electronically will save lives and improve patient care.  Believe it or not, I applaud the State of New York for this groundbreaking new goal.  Now, let's see New York State get this project moving!



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