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The Investigators: Electronic medical record access systems come with pros and cons

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Register online, download the app and patients can access their medication histories and treatment schedules. Register online, download the app and patients can access their medication histories and treatment schedules.
"When you get home, you can go in to make sure that it is accurate, that it's exactly what your blood pressure was, your temperature," she added. "Yes, it can help you hold your doctor accountable." "When you get home, you can go in to make sure that it is accurate, that it's exactly what your blood pressure was, your temperature," she added. "Yes, it can help you hold your doctor accountable."
MEMPHIS, TN -

(WMC) - Instant, accurate web access to her medical records would have helped Jacquelyn Parker.

The hospital where she spent her last visit didn't have the technology.

The lack of it almost killed her.

"I would hate to see this happen to someone else," Parker said worriedly from a wicker chair on her Orange Mound front porch.

What happened: she had disclosed to a nurse -- in writing, right on her medical record -- that she is allergic to the pain-reliever Percocet. 

The next morning, the pain was there alright, with a vengeance. Her body: swollen -- and swelling more.

"That's when (a nurse) told me, 'Well, they gave you Percocet,'" she said. "I had a swelling reaction from it."

Records mistake #1.

Records mistake #2: the hospital treated her, released her and sent her home with an envelope full of records. She carried it to her personal physician's office for a follow-up.

"That's how I discovered I had the wrong papers," she said. "I had another patient's records."

Wrong medication for one patient. Privacy invasion of another.

Ironically, both have become arguments for and against electronic medical record access systems.

Patient experiences like Parker's are a major reason why hospitals nationwide are moving to the electronic storage and access of patients' medical histories. Some of the systems offer password-protected web portals. They allow patients to access their records from anywhere via desktop computer, laptop, smart phone or tablet.

Baptist Memorial Health Care (not the hospital network Parker visited) is implementing its Baptist OneCare/My Chart portal. Register online, download the app and patients can access their medication histories and treatment schedules. 

Baptist patients enrolled in Baptist OneCare/MyChart can effectively "chart" their clinics' or doctors' accuracy with their treatments, lab tests, allergy histories and medications.

"It is so convenient," said Baptist patient Rosalind Able of Raleigh. She opened a Baptist OneCare/MyChart account to monitor her treatments for high blood pressure. 

"When you get home, you can go in to make sure that it is accurate, that it's exactly what your blood pressure was, your temperature," she added. "Yes, it can help you hold your doctor accountable."

"If they have access to a smart phone, an iPad or access to a desktop, a computer anywhere, they can access that information, whether it be medications or allergies," said Beverly Jordan, vice president and chief clinical transformation officer for Baptist Memorial Health Care Corporation. 

"They can even have access through a proxy to their children's records, their parents' records, so it really helps care-givers to be more efficient and more effective," Jordan said. 

Fraud experts and patient privacy rights advocates are leery of the security of electronic medical records access systems. According to SecurityIntelligence.com, as many as 24 million electronic medical records were compromised between 2009 and 2013.

Data provided by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services Office of Civil Rights revealed in one month alone (March to April this year), 52 reported breaches of electronic health records impacted more than 300,000 patients.

Jordan said under federal law, the vendor of Baptist's OneCare/MyChart technology must share certain patient information with other vendors, hospitals and clinics to ensure those systems have that data in case they ever treat those patients. The information includes patients' problem lists (past illnesses, injuries), medications, allergies and eventually immunization histories.

Jordan said that information must be shared with vendors regardless of hospital or clinic affiliation.

Epic of Verona, Wisconsin is the vendor who designed the software for Baptist's OneCare/MyChart technology. Both medical and security sources confirmed it is the market leader in medical record software, impacting 42 percent of the American population.

At least one of Epic's clients has been compromised.

According to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services Health Information Privacy database, an employee with security clearance at Long Beach Memorial Medical Center in California committed an "unauthorized access/disclosure" of the hospital's Epic-designed "electronic medical record."

A hospital spokesperson said more than 500 patients' "... names, addresses, account numbers, insurance info and nature of stay..." were compromised, but insisted the network's security system itself had not been breached.

"Most of the breaches occur because of individual failures, not system failures," said Andy Wilson, fraud investigator and consultant of Wilson & Turner, Inc. in Memphis. "The worst case scenario ... the sure fact that our information is put on the street. We could see (the public release) of those records, from politicians to you and me."

"The only people who should get into your record is your direct care team," said Dr. Deborah C. Peel of Patient Privacy Rights in Austin, TX. "Epic has the technology to limit access to your record, but it won't (because) your health record is a corporate asset of Epic. There will always be thousands of hospital employees who can access all of these patient records."

Epic declined to comment on the record for this story. 

Jordan assured WMC Action News 5 that controls are in place to deal with any breach of Baptist's technology.

"We have audit trails that we can run to make sure that everything is running according to our plans," she said.

Parker said she would have at least appreciated the choice of MyChart-type technology at the hospital that bungled her medical records. She said she's encouraged by the promise of Baptist's program, even with its potential risks.

"I pray that it will work out because it sounds like it's going to be good for the patients and for all the hospitals," Parker said. 


For tips and tricks to achieve the most secure connection if and when you decide to open an electronic medical record access account with your doctor, click here.

Copyright 2014 WMC Action News 5. All rights reserved.

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    Thursday, May 15 2014 6:03 AM EDT2014-05-15 10:03:04 GMT
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