I know that you know someone in a situation similar to the following scenario.  Everybody does.   It could be one of your parents, grandparents or maybe the parent of someone you know.  Perhaps you are the primary caregiver for someone in a similar situation.  If you are a health care practitioner I am sure you see patients like this every day. 

This is the story of “Earl” and the personal health record (PHR).  Of course the names have been changed to protect the privacy of those involved. 

Subject:   87 y.o. white male Caucasian, hypertension, pacemaker, dementia/Alzheimer’s, history of strokes and multiple hip replacements, multiple medications, etc., etc.

History:   Earl still lives on the farm that he has worked for 60+ years of his life.  His wife passed away several years ago.  Earl lives alone except for the cats in the barn that he feeds twice daily.  His family members live nearby and check on Earl several times daily, bringing dinner to his house each evening. 

One sunny spring afternoon recently Earl decided to take a walk down the lane on the farm.  On his way back to the house Earl got tripped up in some rough grass and fell.  Earl was unable to get himself up and lay face down on the grass, his forehead bleeding from where his head hit the ground.  He tried to use his emergency alert button but he was out of range of the receiver connected to the phone in the house.  His repeated attempts to get himself up were fruitless and exhausting.  Earl lay helpless waiting for someone to find him. 

It was over an hour before one of Earl’s family members brought dinner to the house.  After searching the house and barn for Earl he was finally found down the lane.  After a 911 call was placed the EMS personnel arrived with the ambulance to transport Earl to the hospital.  After getting him in the ambulance the EMTs asked what medications Earl was taking… 

A few months earlier, one of Earl’s family members had prepared an emergency personal health record for him.  It was placed in the Emergi-Tube on the side of the refrigerator.  The information was retrieved from the Emergi-Tube and given to the EMTs and taken with Earl to the hospital.  The information was helpful in the emergency room as it not only contained information about Earl’s medications but also a brief outline of his medical conditions, allergies and other pertinent medical information. 

Earl was released from the hospital the next day, a little sore but happy to be home with his cats again.  The information provided on the emergency PHR was helpful to those medical personnel caring for him.  Having this information readily available ensured that the ER and hospital staff were able to continue Earl’s medications properly during his stay. 

We should be encouraging people to learn about PHRs and how to use them to protect themselves and their loved ones.  The use of a PHR will help protect them in the event of an emergency, help decrease the incidence of medication errors, allergic reactions and improve communications with physicians and clinicians.   More importantly, the use of a PHR will empower patients to better monitor and control their medical conditions and improve their overall level of health. 

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