Hurricane season in the Atlantic Ocean opened June 1 and typically runs through November, and Texas physicians and patients alike may be bracing for the possibility of property damage and displacement.
With electronic health records (EHRs) proliferating, it’s never been easier for a patient to take agency over their own health care by having access to their documentation. Physicians and medical staff can help by aiding patients in accessing their patient portal and knowing what information to find there, and quickly.
“It is wise for every person to have their own medical information, including a current list of any medications they are taking,” said Gary W. Floyd, MD, immediate past president of the Texas Medical Association. “Such information can be very helpful, if not critical, if the patient is displaced due to a natural disaster or public health emergency.”
As part of regular emergency preparations, use TMA’s flyer to encourage patients to log in to your practice’s online patient portal to download and save or print their medical records summary. The flyer is customizable to include your practice’s web address for portal access.
Patients are urged to compile and save current information on their:
- Medications and vaccinations;
- Recent diagnoses and treatments; and
- A primary physician contact.
This information is important when a patient sees any new physician but is especially useful in times of crisis.
"What happens when a disaster happens, and [patients] get displaced? Or they get in a traffic accident on a highway – who would know their information?” asked Sunny Wong, MD, a gastroenterologist and internist in Laredo and a member of TMA’s Committee on Health Information Technology. “[Patients] ought to have access to the record.”
Physicians who use a web-based EHR can rest assured that even if their practice is damaged by disaster, sensitive health information will remain safe. EHR vendors use networks of redundant servers to protect data if a hub goes down, says Shannon Vogel, TMA’s associate vice president of health information technology.
TMA surveys indicate most Texas doctors (89%) have electronic medical records; physicians who do not use a web-based EHR should have policies to back up and access medical records offsite.
The Office of the National Coordinator’s Information Blocking Final Rule requires that patients be given immediate access to their electronic health information, structured and/or unstructured, at no cost.
TMA staff also remind physicians that their role in medical recordkeeping continues even after a patient is out of their care or a physician has made a career change, such as moving or retirement. For instance, even when records are accounted for, physicians have a duty to inform any patient whose record they have that the practice is closing, explains TMA’s whitepaper on medical record maintenance, which details other requirements and exceptions.
For more information on good medical recordkeeping practices, visit TMA’s Medical Records page.