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Dear EMR: Greetings from Paris, Wish You Were Here

Gienna Shaw, for HealthLeaders Media, April 26, 2011

"Of course you fell down the stairs and sprained your ankle in Paris," my cousin said to me when I got back from vacation. "It makes for a good story." She knows that I love to tell stories—and experiencing France's healthcare system firsthand certainly makes for a good one.

At the time of my visit to the emergency room at the 987-bed Hôpital Bichat-Claude Bernard, I was slightly too distracted to reflect on how much better my care would be if the doctors could access my electronic medical records. Or print out documents in multiple languages. Or send digital X-rays and a report of the ED visit to my doctor in the U.S.—or at least hand them to me on a CD.  

But in retrospect, I'm sure of it.

No one in the emergency room at Hôpital Bichat-Claude Bernard spoke more than broken English, including my doctor. Other than a dismissive wave of his hand, he couldn't communicate the severity of my injury. He wrote a prescription that I couldn't read. I was given no discharge instructions. Just about the only person I understood clearly was the woman who pushed me in a wheelchair to the emergency room exit at the end of my visit and said: "Taxi?"

Most alarming, however, was that the only information collected from me was my name, address, and passport number. The hospital didn't ask for the name of my primary care physician. It didn't ask for my medical history. It didn't ask me if I was taking any medications. It didn't ask me if I have any allergies.

And it certainly never asked for a quick peek at my electronic health records.

I should say that the public health system in France has a good reputation for quality. And they are slowly moving toward adopting PACs. Based on the quick turnaround time I assume the imaging equipment they used was digital (the radiologist didn't know the word "digital," and I didn't know how to describe it in French). But still I had to carry x-rays on film home to my doctor.

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2 comments on "Dear EMR: Greetings from Paris, Wish You Were Here"


Michael (4/29/2011 at 7:08 PM)
Great article that once again illustrates the importance of carrying medical information. This situation ultimately could have been a lot worse - imagine you were involved in a more serious medical event such as a heart attack or stroke and were unconscious or unable to relay any medical information to emergency personnel while traveling in France. What if you are taking a medication like Coumadin or have a latex allergy ? - this is vital information that could dramatically affect your emergency treatment and medical outcome. Information your care providers need to know. We developed a product called miCARD (www.micard.com) that combines a medical information (wallet) card and online Personal Health Record. This way when you travel anywhere in the world medical personnel(first responders) will have a complete summary of your critical medical information via the miCARD wallet card plus any addtl medical information you may have stored (EKG, Labs, Physician notes, etc) in your online Personal Health Record. The miCARD PHR is accessible 24/7 worldwide and all personal medical information is stored securely online. This process was developed by my brother Dr. James Kelley, an Emergency Physician with over 15 years of clinical experience. It was designed to help prepare individuals for a medical emergency and provide medical personnel the vital information they need to make informed, timely decisions that lead to better care. Just wanted to share...please check out our solution and let me know your thoughts. Thank you again for your thought provoking article. Best Regards, Michael Kelley Co-Founder www.micard.com michael.kelley@micard.com

Andrew (4/28/2011 at 5:45 PM)
It's very important that electronic medical records be implemented in more and more places. If anyone is interested, I found a great site called <a href="http://www.informationmanagementcompare.com/Healthcare-Information-Management/1123-Electronic-Health-Records-EHR-Solutions/">InformationManagementCompare/EMR Solutions</a>. They analyze amd compare companies who offer EMR services and solutions.