Yes, we’ve all heard the advice about keeping your medical records handy and up-to-date. I know this becomes an increasingly important thing to do as my husband and I age and are often afflicted with new ailments and have to see new doctors. I try to do this as well as I can, but it’s tedious and time-consuming and I’m sure there are errors in my records, as well as more than a few gaps.
I have a way to solve this problem.
In recent years, we’ve seen the increasing availability of online doctor “portals” where you can access medical information about yourself, make appointments, see a list of your medications, and so on. But the major limitation here is that if you are a typical retired person in the baby-boom generation, you have multiple doctors and therefore, multiple portals each of which has only partial information about you.
It’s even worse if you have moved and changed doctors since these portals have become available. Your former doctors are now storing what could well be out-of-date medical information on you and all of your new doctors have to re-enter all your information (or you have to).
What we need is a single online access point for all of our medical information, to which each of our doctors contributes his or her relevant information. This will be a patient-centered access point (instead of the current doctor-centered portals) and should contain complete medical histories, visit notes, lab tests, diagnoses, procedures, and medications.
An example of the usefulness of this access and why I wish I had already it: there have been a lot of TV advertisements recently promoting the need to get the shingles vaccine. I think I may have a dim memory of both my husband and I having had the shots, but when and where (and even, if) we had them is lost. I never recorded such a thing in the records I keep since it most likely would have been during a normal check-up several years ago (before we moved to Florida) and I just didn’t think of it. It may just have been something we discussed with the doctor and never followed through on.
I no longer have access to the portal my family doctor offered when we lived on Cape Cod. Even if my doctor at the time had thought to include it in the visit notes available to me through the portal, searching through them was always a chore and a bore because the records were always organized by date and could not be seen any other way.
A much better way: a private website that I can access easily where all I have to do is enter the word “shingles” and up will pop the date, time, doctor, office, type of vaccine, any after-reaction, etc. of the shot I had. Or it won’t pop up and I’ll know for sure that I never had it and can call that afternoon to arrange it.
How about knowing for sure when you stopped taking Lipitor and switched to a generic statin and matching that information with your cholesterol levels? How about having handy the actual diagnosis and treatment plan that led to your right knee replacement seven years ago and comparing that to what you’re hearing about your right knee today? Your diclofenac doesn’t seem to be working well for you anymore; how about seeing which of your doctors originally prescribed it and why?
In addition to your own access, each doctor you see will also be able to see all of your records (with your permission, of course) and will be in a position to treat and advise you in a more thorough and comprehensive way. That can only be a good thing.
And speaking of permissions and data security, it goes without saying that all of the HIPAA guidelines should be followed. The people responsible for actually holding all of this precious and vital information on their computers will be held to the highest standards – unlike, but much better than, what happens now with our financial records.
An added bonus is that having such an accessible repository will greatly reduce the need to fill out those burdensome, awful, boring, tedious new-patient forms every time you see a new doctor (can you tell I hate doing that?).
What do you think? Will it fly?
I'm Linda Fleit. My husband and I were lucky enough to retire when we were 61, about nine years ago. We love being retired and want to share all that we've learned over the years about this wonderful stage of life.