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Travel Health Expert Advice

A Traveler’s Best Friend

By Dr. William E. Carlson

One of the biggest nightmares a frequent traveler can face is falling ill or experiencing an injury while away from home. With no reliable way to ensure that the tending physician has the medical information they need, travelers are often left to wonder if they are receiving safe, effective care.

Pat Brooks has experienced such an event first hand. However, the use of his MedFlash personal health record made a world of difference in his care process.

“While I was visiting in Tennessee for the High Holidays in September, I became very ill with bronchitis.  Not knowing any doctors, I stopped in at the Emergency Center, which was only a couple of blocks from my hotel, for treatment.  They admitted that they never used a USB flash drive to obtain a medical record prior to my visit. However, because of my medical record, the nurse called the number on my unit,” he said. “The doctor commented that because the nurse was able to obtain vital information that he needed to treat me, he was able to provide the appropriate care in my case.”

PHR 101

Though PHRs aren’t new, they are garnering increased attention as more emphasis is placed on getting patients more actively involved in their healthcare.

In its most basic form, a PHR is simply a collection of an individual’s past and present health information gathered from multiple sources including physicians and maintained by the patient or caregiver. This typically includes a list of significant illnesses and surgeries, medications, allergies, treatment or therapy updates, x-rays, laboratory reports, immunization records, consent and authorization forms, insurance information and emergency contacts.

Most current PHR users have or care for someone with chronic illnesses or significant health problems. However, their popularity is growing among healthy consumers who are interested in taking better care of themselves and who want to be more actively involved in decisions about their medical care –something research has shown results in better outcomes.

As a result of this evolving market demand, a new kind of PHR is emerging; one that offers a high level of connectivity, portability and integration between the health information entered by the consumer, medical information available from multiple online resources and even smart phones and medical devices, which will include health and wellness programs.

The PHR of the 21st Century

The next-generation of PHR is much more than an electronic filing cabinet. In fact, it’s not a PHR at all. It is a Personal Health Manager (PHM) that delivers a highly personalized and interactive health and wellness experience that puts the consumer in control.

The challenge for those in the market for such a product is identifying one that delivers the features they want now, but that can also evolve along with technology. Thus, in addition to a secure environment in which to maintain personal health and medical information, here are the five key features one should look for to ensure that what they are purchasing is, in fact, a PHM.

1. Portability for on-the-go or emergency access

The PHR remains a critical component in any PHM system, but unless it’s portable, its value is severely limited. Look for a system that offers multiple ways to enter and access the data stored inside the PHR, including web portals, smart phone applications and an encrypted USB drive.

2. Flexibility

This is especially true for travelers. Ready to brief any doctor, ER physician or other medical professional in an instant, PHR’s provide paramedics and emergency room staffs with access to the information they need to properly provide care when a patient is incapacitated or unresponsive. This flexibility also allows patients to easily transport information between their primary care and specialty care physicians.

3. Integration with smart medical devices and physician records

The ability to synchronize with “smart” medical devices such as scales, blood pressure and glucose monitors, as well as mobile phones is an important component of a comprehensive health management system. By linking these devices to the PHM, patients with chronic conditions can continuously monitor their health without having to manually enter the information into the system.

4. Web/social media integration

By integrating web-based media, PHMs also connect users to a wealth of trusted medical information available from multiple sources, such as WebMD and even their own personal physicians or healthcare systems. This ultimately creates a personalized community where individuals can find the support and guidance they need, when they need it.

5. 24/7 access to clinical/nursing support

Access to live support is an important component, particularly in times of emergency. MedFlash offers a 24/7 call center staffed by nurses as a supplement to its I.C.E. feature that provides access to a subscriber’s emergency medical profile and health information.

William E. Carlson, M.D., is a board-certified orthopaedic surgeon and managing partner of South Florida Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine in Stuart, Fla. He is Chief Medical Officer of Connectyx Technologies Corp., which offers the MedFlash PHR and personal health manager solution (www.medflash.com). Dr. Carlson also serves on the Board of Directors at Martin Memorial Health Systems, where his is President of the Medical Executive Committee.

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