Access To Medical Records Could Boost Patient Engagement, Lower Costs

August 09, 2013

Managing your personal medical records is a huge question without a clear answer. Some see portability of and easy access to health histories as the key to getting patients more focused on their own well being. KJZZ's Nick Blumberg tested a medical ID card that doubles as a flash drive.

There are several products that let you carry your medical data with you everywhere in digital form. I got one at my local pharmacy. It is slightly fatter than a normal credit card with a one gigabyte flash drive that plugs into your computer (as long as you use Windows.) After fighting to get it out of the packaging, I plugged it in and took a look.

Medical ID card This card holds a 1 gigabyte flash drive that'll carry all your important medical records, and it fits in your wallet -- though it might take a little effort to squeeze it in. (Photo by Nick Blumberg - KJZZ)

The pre-loaded software lets you enter your medical history, emergency contacts, prescriptions, and you can load digital records from your doctor. Once everything is filled out, you can carry a password-protected medical history with you in case of emergency.

“What you just described is a glimpse of the future that will be commonplace five or 10 years from now," said Dave DeBronkart, an author and advocate for patient engagement.

DeBronkart said very few people actually buy one of these drives and manually enter the data, but that having a full medical history easily accessible is pretty common sense.

“You fill out a credit application and bing, they know everything about you. They know the last time you were late on a mortgage payment or a rent payment," DeBronkart said. "Certainly, there’s more at stake in a person’s health, but that information isn’t available all in one place."

If it were, it could make it more convenient for a patient to manage her own care, according to Kate Berry, CEO of the National eHealth Collaborative.

“Banking, how we manage travel compared to years ago, shopping, how we communicate with our family and friends -- we all have control over when we do it and how we do it because it’s electronic," said Berry. "I think that same thing is going to happen in healthcare.”

Berry said the more you know, the more you can do what is best for your own health. Dave DeBronkart sees that as increasingly important as people live longer and longer and doctors are in short supply.

“The burden on the medical system if we don’t distribute competence into the family and community is just going to be unmanageable," DeBronkart said.

And while there are always privacy concerns and worries that patients could try to take too much control over their health care, DeBronkart and Berry think more engagement likely means better outcomes and lower costs.

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