You're a South Florida resident on vacation in Boise or Bogota. You suffer stomach pains and visit a local doctor. You whip out your BlackBerry, punch in your access code and show the doctor a list of your medications, allergies, past illnesses, tests, surgeries and advice from your physician back home.
Electronic medical records, or EMRs, are quickly becoming a reality for doctors and hospitals in South Florida and beyond.
If EMRs work, they'll be high-tech marvels — letting patients access their own medical records on their home computers, helping doctors coordinate tests with each other to avoid duplication, giving medical researchers access to millions of medical records.
Nearly every major South Florida hospital and many doctors are joining a push by the Obama administration to spend $19.2 billion in federal stimulus money to help create a national EMR system by 2014.
Allison Grisham of Miami Beach just got her own EMR from her doctor at University of Miami Hospital, which is spending $100 million on a new Epic brand system. She hopes it can help end medical errors like one she barely avoided a few years ago.
"I was in a hospital once and the nurse tried to give me the wrong medication. We only stopped it because my mother and I refused to let her put it in the IV,'' she said. "It could have been serious.''
There are drawbacks. Patient advocates worry that EMRs could pose a threat to privacy. Doctors and hospitals say they're not being given enough time to set up the complex electronic systems or enough financial help to pay for them. The systems can cost $50 million to $100 million for hospitals and $15,000 to $50,000 for private doctors.
But the potential pluses outweigh those complaints, many doctors and hospitals believe. The new systems are voluntary, but federal financial incentives for using them and penalties for failing to do so have most medical officials at least resigned to making the change.
Read the full story on MiamiHerald.com