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Tag: Steve Sanders

EMR and the Falling Patient

Is Mom at risk of falling?

Electronic medical records (EMR) efficiently capture physician’s keystrokes—yes or no—to this question and tuck it along side other data about our so–called medical lives.The physician’s judgment has to take into account many factors: is the patient elderly and ‘frail,’ do they have an orthopedic or neurological problem causing them to lose their balance, can they get up from a chair without having to use their arms to push-off, importantly do they live alone. Most of the answers to these questions come quickly through discussions with the patient or their family, or by simply observation. Nine times out of ten physicians can predict that a patient will fall before it happens.

Now, the EMR owns this critical piece of information. But the next most obvious question, as many of you can guess, seems clear: now what?

Ideally by clicking yes, a sequence of events occurs; (a) Home health receives an electronic message requesting a patient safety visit. Specially trained home health nurses look for loose rugs that may slip out from under the patient, extension cords waiting to snag an unsuspecting foot, toilets without support for getting up and down, or the need for an electronic alert system bringing help quickly (b) An alert goes to the patient’s pharmacy requesting a drug–drug interaction report, detailing which drugs interfere with each other causing precarious side effects. Alerts also goes to the primary physician highlighting which of the patient’s medication tend to cause problems in the elderly (c) Schedules an appointment with physical therapy for balance and strengthening exercises (d) Arranges for a visual examination and hearing test, after checking on previous tests. These steps become placed into motion within a nanosecond after clicking ‘yes.’

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From Pain to Poverty

“What am I going to do now Doc?” asked Mike, a down on his luck, 29 year–old recently unemployed truck driver, as he handed me his hospital bill.

Mike was seen at our local emergency department on a Friday evening with complaints of indigestion. Earlier that day he and his wife Susan celebrated their second anniversary by splitting a store bought pepperoni pizza. Mike had just lost his job and his wife, already working two jobs, managed to keep them afloat. When Mike later complained of indigestion, Susan became alarmed. She had just read about the symptoms of heart disease in the local paper. Mike wanted to get some antacids but Susan demanded he go to the hospital. Mike stated he initially protested, but when it came to his health he looked to his wife for advice.

He said he wanted her to drive him to the hospital and told me his wife wouldn’t hear of it. “We’re going to call 911, she told him. “You could die on the way to the hospital.” Now, Mike admitted, that made him scared and he quickly agreed. Fifteen minutes later he was on a gurney rolling through the double doors of the emergency department.

Physical assessment by the emergency resident physician came quickly followed by an EKG, chest x-ray, CT scan of the chest (“they said I might have had a blood clot”), and lab, specifically including cardiac enzymes. Mike said his only complaint was it took over five hours before he heard any news.Continue reading…

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