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Editorial: Coordinated medical records right Rx for NM

In New Mexico, as in most states, it is incumbent upon a patient to coordinate his or her health records, to ensure the right hand (say their primary care physician) and the left hand (say the team that treats them in an emergency room) know what the other has been doing or will be doing with regard to their medical treatment.

And anyone who has cared for someone who is sick, or those who have been sick or injured, knows that’s a sketchy system at best.

Try to remember what day the ER X-ray or CT scan was taken and the results reported. Or the medical terminology of a blood draw. Or the steps recommended for follow-up care. And then make an appointment and take all that information to the primary care doctor, losing nothing in the translation so that care is not only seamless but non-duplicative.

All while your loved one – or you – recovers.

That’s why a statewide electronic records network is the right prescription for continuity in health care. While a new six-state study suggests patients should be pushy about getting follow-up care so they don’t have to return to crowded emergency departments, New Mexico already has records from about half of its hospitals linked electronically.

“It’s better for the patient. Their care is better-coordinated because we’re sharing their information across many provider organizations, so you are not duplicating tests,” explains Dr. Dale Alverson, director of the University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center for Telehealth and Cyber-medicine Research.

Besides not duplicating tests, the patient is not wasting time looking for information that another provider already has, from blood type to allergies to diagnosed conditions to prescription medications.

New Mexico launched the online system in March and has various levels of medical information for around 1.5 million patients. Presbyterian Healthcare Services, Lovelace Health System, UNM Hospitals and TriCore Reference Laboratories are participating, and eight other hospitals are on track to join the voluntary program this year.

That will put New Mexico patients and providers in a better medical and financial position.

Dr. Reena Duseja, an emergency physician who led the research for the University of California-San Francisco, explains “we need to really think about, as a health system, how can we efficiently take care of our patients in the right place, at the right time.”

And not relying on a sick or injured patient to introduce the right hand to the left hand is a good place to start.

This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.

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