Patients will be able to see, change and share medical records on the Internet with a service launched on Monday by a company set up by a coalition of professional medical groups.
They say the service, called iHealthRecord, will let patients control their own records, while allowing doctors vital access when they need it, eventually reducing the risks of mistakes such as prescribing errors.And, they hope, it could provide a way for doctors and patients to replace thick medical charts and swap information without the need for costly and time-consuming office visits.The system is being provided by Medem Inc., an online medical services company set up in 1999 by medical societies such as the American Medical Association, American Psychiatric Association and American Academy of Pediatrics.”We believe that electronic personal health records are an important service for physicians and patients, and a key element of the national information technology infrastructure,” said Dr. James Rohack, chairman of the American Medical Association.The medical groups backing the iHealthRecord, which include the American Heart Association and American Cancer Society, said it could be a first step to transforming the ponderous and mistake-prone paper-based U.S. medical records system into an efficient, digital structure.”Ultimately, we know these systems will reduce medical errors and save lives,” Rohack told a news conference. “It doesn’t matter whether (patients) move, switch health plans or switch doctors.” FREE FOR PATIENTSThe online service is free to patients who access it directly via the Internet at http:/www.ihealthrecord.org.Medem Chief Executive Officer Dr. Edward Fotsch, said doctors, hospitals and medical groups will pay for the system, with a maximum charge of $25 per month per patient, plus a charge for each e-mail consultation made using the system.The password-protected service prompts a patient to enter medical details in a “check-the-box” format similar to the clipboards used now in doctors’ and dentists’ offices.Patients can also record details of their prescriptions, health insurance and physicians. Medem hopes to lure doctors to join by providing a way to offer extra services to patients with little effort.Patients can choose to manage their own records. And the system is designed to minimize the risks that hackers could view patient records.”Patients control the record. They decide who can see it and who cannot,” Fotsch said.There have been several cases of hackers getting into computer-based medical records — for instance at the University of Washington Medical Center in 2001.But Fotsch said the system was encrypted and said anyone who opens a file leaves electronic “fingerprints” that the patient can see.Fotsch admitted the system is not foolproof. Patients can falsify online records if they wish, or create phony profiles. But he said he did not believe many would.”There really is not much motivation to put misinformation in your personal record,” Fotsch said.Fotsch, an emergency room doctor, said vital medical information is now not available to emergency workers. “You fly blind. You don’t know the patient. You don’t know the medications.”Patients could print out an emergency wallet card that would provide the password and allow such caregivers to see vital records. (Source: Reuters Health, May 2005)