The future of medical care may be on a disc you can carry home. The University of Nebraska Medical Center hospital in Omaha will give patients a copy of their medical records “burned” onto a computer CD-ROM. Doctor Tom Tape is chief of internal medicine at UNMC. Tape says the center’s been putting more patients records into computers, and the next step is to make the data available to other providers who care for their patients but can’t tap into their computer system. The internist says there have always been patients who wanted to have information on their medical condition and prescriptions. An example might be the patient who’s recently recovered from serious illness or surgery, or has a heart condition and would need to have details on that for any new doctor. He says it’s not much different from the old-fashioned way of Xeroxing your medical records, he says. The problem there is, there’s often more information than you can carry on “a little scrap of paper,” so the CD project was a way to extract data from the patient’s medical record and store it in a form that’s highly portable. Computer records of the patient information are burned onto an extra-small computer disk. He says it’s just slightly bigger than a business card, but can be played in the CD drive of almost any computer, and all it takes is the Windows program to view this information. The disc can even be password-protected for more security, Dr. Tape says, though some patients choose NOT to use a password, so if they’re injured or very sick anyone who finds the CD when they’re taken to a hospital can use it to get vital information about treating them. The doctor says this CD-ROM method of sharing data is still new and quite rare. They’re promoting it mainly to patients who have complex medical problems and are traveling, or going to other caregivers for some things and those doctors aren’t connected to the hospital’s records system. He says it takes only about 2 minutes to make the CD copy of medical records. If a patient might benefit from having their medical data on the CD, Doctor Tape will have them sign a standard consent form to release the records, wait a week for the very latest tests and x-rays to be added to their file, then have the small disc created and sent to them. A hospital in Tennessee is offering the medical-records CDs, and the Med Center in Omaha is still doing it on a trial basis. But Dr. Tape says word of mouth already has more patients coming in to ask about it.
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