Informatics: Health Care and Information

Suppose it is a bright sunny day and you decide to go on a scenic ride to the ocean. You come upon a motor vehicle accident and are the first responder. You call 911 and assess the situation. There is a mother and her two children in the car. The mother is not able to talk. The children appear to be about four and six. You hear the sirens and as you look up the paramedics are approaching the scene of the accident. What can you do? Technical knowledge is an amazing benefit that many of us take for granted.

We are fortunate to have an abundance of technology within arms reach. This technology is accessible through the Internet, social media sites, and smart phones. These are just a few of the many resources that have advanced our technology. Technology has improved our lives in the way we shop, learn, and accumulate information across-the-board. Globally we as a society have changed. This is particularly true in the health care setting. The pen and paper, previously the gold standard for documenting a patients health information, is rapidly becoming obsolete.

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Today a patient’s health care record can be accessed through an electronic health record (EHR). According to Sewell & Thede (2013) “the EHR allows health information to be shared with consumers, authorized providers, and public health personnel” (p. 357). It is now commonplace to see many health care facilities converting over to the EHR for the accessibility and the convenience, as well as the ability to share pertinent information with all those directly involved in the patients care.

Currently there is extensive ongoing research and development in the area of emergency access to personal information using QR codes. There are now applications available on smartphones that will store all crucial information such as allergies, medications, blood type, medical history and contact information. A specific example of one of these apps is the Life Square. Life Square uses QR code stickers and an iPhone application to provide pertinent information to emergency health care workers.

QR codes are similar to bar codes in that they can be scanned with a mobile device, which, in turn, uploads the data quickly to the mobile device. The QR stickers are attached to an area that is easily located. “In an emergency, paramedics use an iPhone to read the QR code on an individual’s sticker. That process automatically populates health data into emergency systems, from which it can be forwarded to the emergency department of the nearest hospital. ” There will always be those who are concerned about privacy.

According to Rich (2012) “medical information can only be accessed by medical personnel participating in the pilot who have the Lifesquare EMS application on their mobile device. ” However, computer hackers have been stealing confidential information from many secure sites for years. Currently there is much research and development being done to address preventing this critical potential flaw. Privacy of one’s personal information needs to be safe-guarded in every way possible. This writer believes that these issues within the system are being addressed.

A crucial part of this process is being able to properly care for victims in an emergency situation. “First responders and emergency care providers make life or death decisions with little to no information about patient’s medical problems. Access to a person’s medical record could greatly improve the medical care they receive” (Aguinaga & Poellabauer). There are also other potential complications being discussed. For example, if someone has borrowed a friend’s car, and is involved in a motor vehicle accident.

The Lifesquare sticker attached to her dashboard would reflect the vehicle’s owner’s information and not necessarily that of the driver. The driver may be unconscious and unable to inform EMS workers of the discrepancy. There are still things that will need to be worked out to make this system run efficiently. The system is also dependent on complete and comprehensive information being entered. If a patient withholds information regarding any medications or other health information that they may not want to share, the system is not operating efficiently, and there is even potential for harm.

First responders have access to one’s allergies, current medications, and emergency point of contact, however, as stated in the article by Rich (2012), people also have the option to input “whatever medical details they want to divulge. ” This system will truly be beneficial if the individuals are aware of the importance of entering all data and keeping it updated. It is important for users to know that you must be honest and accurate when giving your information. It is equally important to regularly update all information including medical conditions and any changes to medications.

Technology is an excellent tool for providers, as long as it is being used in the way it was intended. As a health care worker, this writer believes that the QR code system could benefit the victims mentioned in the opening paragraph. Responders having access to pertinent medical information in an emergency situation is of the utmost importance. That being said, it remains an individual’s choice to be a part of this system and keep their medical information updated and complete. Advances in technology have changed healthcare in a positive way and can only continue to help victims in emergent situations.

Technology will continue to evolve, allowing for people to acquire information that only a few years ago seemed impossible to obtain in real time. In conclusion, this writer believes that QR code systems are becoming the way of our future. To the question “Should we? ”, this writers reply is “Yes. ” If systems are put in place to protect patient’s personal information then the information can be safely used to save lives and improve health care. Providers will have access to information vital to delivering the best possible care and provide the best possible outcomes.