Drug allergies meet paper records

Like everyone else in the healthcare industry, I’ve been focused a lot on Meaningful Use implementation and the rise of EHRs. We all do a lot of grumbling about the cost and complications of change but I got a good reminder recently of just how important integrated records can be.

Tara Courtland

Communications Director Tara Courtlan

Last week I had an injury that had gotten infected and wasn’t getting any better over time so I thought I’d better have it looked at.

Sure enough, the doctor checked me out and declared that some drugs were in order. She started writing on her chart and I told her that I’m allergic to penicillin and a lot of other antibiotics.

She stopped writing.

“Which ones?”
“Um … I don’t — One of them starts with a ‘D.’”

She looks at me, confused. “You’re telling me you have drug allergies and you don’t know which drugs you’re allergic to?”

I look at her confused. “I’ve been coming here for eight years. You’re telling me you don’t have that information on a computer somewhere?”

Turns out they don’t. They’re not fully digital. Now that information should probably be in my chart somewhere, but she’s flipping through a ream of paper and can’t find it.

She finally gives up and asks “What do you want me to do?”
“Well, if I don’t get antibiotics, I’m going to die, right?”

“That … um … well, that is a risk, yes.”
“That sounds worse than an allergic reaction. Better just pick one.”

We went back and forth on that a few times but eventually, she wrote me a prescription for something that didn’t start with a “D.”

So far, I’m not sick from this particular antibiotic (I’m pretty sure this one ends with an ‘X’) so I’m feeling pretty good about it. But not as good as I’d feel if she’d typed it into a computer.

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About Tara Courtland

Tara Courtland is the communications director at NEMT.
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