Thursday, April 16, 2009

Medical records

If you go to the same hospital for 28 years and have two cancers, 8 surgeries, a few million x-rays, blood tests, procedures, biopsies and tests, your medical file becomes this giant bloated pile of papers clipped together (and that's only the part they bring out for your visits). The bulk of it is kept in storage somewhere 'safe' where they can access it a few months notice. It took them approximately two months to find my pathology report from my first cancer diagnosis when they were searching for it. But it was under my maiden name which didn't help the process.

At each medical visit, I would watch my giant file grow and grow and grow. Then at surgery, it would be supplemented by separate little files from all my previous surgeries. Then at the last one, there was only a little binder full of electronic printouts relevant to the operation of the day (gall bladder removal or chole....stomy - a big word that I can't remember because I have chemo brain even though that is violation of my personal rule you can't have something you can't spell, pronounce or define).

Tuesday I went to the back doctor for bending and treatment decisions. He walked into the room without a giant pile of paper - he had a computer tablet with stylus attached and said here is my medical record. It was very cool. He could access all my test/procedure results (and was even impressed with how many I have had) but its only electronic for the past 2-3 years. So somewhere my giant file lives on. It clearly must be progress because he told me the system is set up so the file logs you out after 10 minutes of inactivity and it took him about a dozen tries to log back in to show me my MRI results again. Anyway, it was very cool.

There has been a lot in the news recently about electronic medical records because the VA has just switched to this system. Apparently only about 1.5% of hospitals in the country have made the switch as well. But the result is they reduce errors and as a result hospitals are safer - a 15% decrease in death rates. Which if you think about it is kind of scary that many deaths are attributed to human error.

Yesterday, I made progress in the electronic world. My new laptop arrived. I plugged it in and charged up the battery. Then I got to have fun with adding Norton Antivirus to it. We have an account for three computers so I simply wanted to add it to our existing account. Of course it didn't work. I downloaded the program, sent myself the product key, and got the message 'invalid product key' so I resorted to contacting customer support. You can't call them, you must IM or email. I opted for the live electronic support via IM. I got a rocket scientist. Apparently the latest product available is not the one we had so they had to uninstall and reinstall. They took over for remote diagnostics and I just watched - until they said 'I can't find the file I just saved to the desktop'. Very well trained support. I had to locate the file for them. To be fair, it is Windows Vista but you would think a support person would be trained in default file locations. But I believe, as their name was about 30 characters long and their typed English was a tad stilted, that they were located some place 'off shore'.

Anyway, today I have to have to work from home. I have a deadline - which means do it now before you start wasting time on Facebook and other online places or go for a walk or even glimpse at the garden. Then I have errands to run and have to go to work. I will also have to admire my new hair cut which is beginning to look like a real hair cut as opposed to all you can do with growing back from baldness look. Perhaps it is time to eat some breakfast and get to work.

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