A Centralized Health Database

A Centralized DatabaseAs I wrote yesterday, I took James to two different doctors in the three days before he was admitted to the hospital with pneumonia. I should also point out that during the one day I didn't have James at a medical facility I was in the emergency room with Taryn who has been quite sick herself lately. Since James was admitted three days ago, he was in the pediatric emergency room for a night before being admitted to the pediatric wing of the same hospital. In the process, there were conversations with several different doctors and nurses. It is with the sweat, blood and tears shed over this past week's experience I write the following entry.

Ontario desperately needs an Internet-based centralized health database. Back in October I wrote about the Alberta Electronic Health Record, an Internet database of patients' medical information that will be used by almost all health professionals in the province. Every citizen's health record, such as prescription history, allergies, lab test results and ailments, can be accessed by doctors, nurses, pharmacists and other professionals who would need to view and update this information. The end result of this centralized, streamlined communication is better healthcare for patients. At the time, I urged all of Canada to follow Alberta's lead and harness the true power of the Internet.

During the past week, I found myself being asked an identical series of questions by numerous nurses and doctors from different facilities. I would even get the exact same questions from different departments within the same hospital or even different staff in the same department. Does James have any allergies? Does he take any medication? Is he generally healthy? Has he had his shots? There are many other questions that seemed to be standard. As I answered them over and over and over again, I just hoped my answers were consistent. At times I found myself forgetting exactly which antibiotic caused that rash a few months ago or exactly which shots he's received thus far. During this exercise in frustration I kept wondering why we didn't have an electronic health record for James.

If Ontario had instituted such a program, every doctor that has treated James during his two years of life could have recorded the diagnosis and prescribed medications in such a database. This is also where his pediatrician could record the shots James has received and the clinic we went to to get his flu shot could have recorded that fact. All pertinent medical information that a doctor would need to determine necessary action would be accessible to him or her via this database. And best of all, it would be up to date and far more accurate than my memory. What if James became ill and neither of his parents were with him? In an instance such as this, an Internet database of his medical information could save his life.

I'm on my way back to the hospital now for the night. I'm already in answer-mode.


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