Sunday, August 16, 2009

Going on Record About Digital Health Records

I cut my finger last night. Sliced, really. Well, since the sight of blood makes me queasy, I think I could say that I could have given any good slasher film a run for its money. I was showing my littlest how to use a Swiss Army knife. As my husband has so kindly pointed out, apparently I wanted to demonstrate exactly what NOT to do. Which is it flip the blade closed and have your finger in the way.

The damage was immediate and profound. Blood everywhere. Like Carrie, without the prom dress. My husband, the calm one (and, luckily someone who is not at all afraid of seeing blood or a gaping wound) comes over. "Get your hand over your head!" he barks. "Put some pressure on it!" An hour later, this thing is still giving up the fully Freddy Krueger. Not one to give up on staying home, he starts calling around for an open Urgent Care. At 10:30 p.m., none answer. Now he calls the E.R. "What's your wait like?" he inquires. "It's a typical Saturday night," responds the nurse. "So a cut finger would be low on the list?" he offers. All he gets is giggling and a quick "yes." 

Knowing that my digit was not going to be repaired any time soon, Dr. Husband props me up in bed, clamps a brace I used when I slammed my finger in a door around it and says, "Get comfortable. You're sleeping with your hand over your head." I do not need to offer that I had a really sleepless night.

This morning, we surveyed the damage. At least it wasn't still splurting. Nasty, deep and angry looking, Dr. Husband doctored it up like a pro. Then I called my insurance company's 24-hour nurse line. "So when's the last time you had a Tetanus shot?" she asks. I have no idea. I've been compiling all of my family's medical information into our HealthVault account, and since the kids and my husband had a lot more stuff to enter, I was on the bottom of the list. I was the cobbler, as it were, and I had no shoes. "Well, if you can't remember, you probably need one. Get it within 24 hours, though, okay?" And then she very kindly helped me find three Urgent Cares that were in my plan. (Thank you, btw, Blue Shield). 

What bummed me out is that I had already picked my Urgent Care. Apparently not in my plan, this one, across from the hospital, had convenient office hours AND, the perky phone message offered: Electronic Health Records! I could get a copy of my visit and drop it into my HealthVault account. Some day I might forget about this bloody mess, but my electronic health record would remind me. But the thought of a high deductible and higher co-pay sent me to an in-plan Urgent Care. 

Nice they were, but as I arrived, finger bundled and bored eight-year-old in tow, I was not happy at the prospect of filling out SEVEN pages of paperwork. Stuff I don't need to remember and, as an Urgent Care, stuff they prob don't need to know. Like the date of my last pap smear. Uh, that has NO bearing on my finger. Or the date of my last mammogram. Or whether my mother is diabetic. Had there been an electronic health record, all of that would have been available, I might have been seen sooner and I would not have felt stupid giving absolutely incomplete and inaccurate information (I am not getting into who has asthma and who has high blood pressure and why; I just want my finger sutured).

Luckily for me, the Urgent Care was not too busy and I was out of there in an hour. A fresh shot, a bunch of Steri Strips glued in and an admonishment from the doc (via my husband) to take it easy in the gym for a few days (We wouldn't want this to pop open again. (No, we would not))and I was good to go.

While I was trying to look unconcerned  as the nurse prepped my shot, I asked him how he felt about electronic health records. "I like them. This group doesn't use them, but I can see how they would help." I told him that I am a big proponent for them, and am closely following the health care reform progress. "How's it going out there?" he asked, too busy at the Urgent Care to see all of the town hall coverage. "There's a lot of fear," I offered. "That's too bad," he added, handing me some bandages.

He's right. Slicing open your finger on a weekend and knowing that you'd be in the E.R. for 7 hours is a LOT scarier. As is making important decisions about your health based on your insurance coverage, or lack thereof. 

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