Monday, April 24, 2006

It may be one of the few things President Bush, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, and Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama all agree on: In less than 10 years, every American should have an electronic medical record that’s instantly accessible.

Mr. Bush touted this idea at a Small Business Administration event last week; Mr. Frist, Tennessee Republican, Mrs. Clinton, New York Democrat, and Mr. Obama, Illinois Democrat, were among the co-sponsors of legislation to promote such records.

But many of us — as in almost everyone — has their records on paper right now, probably in more than one doctor’s or dentist’s office, and perhaps in way more than one geographic location. I’ve seen health care professionals in New York, Washington, Virginia, Maryland and California — and that’s just in the past 10 years.

At the same time, not having everything online can be more than a hassle; it could be life-threatening. Robert Lorsch, a Beverly Hills entrepreneur, philanthropist and cancer survivor, nearly died from a prescription interaction that could have been avoided. He understands this better than many, and created an online service to help., which I’ve been testing for the past few weeks, is a remarkable product.

For about $80 per year, a family of up to six persons can have paper-based medical files, not to mention X-rays and other imaging work, stored securely online for retrieval just about anywhere.

Mr. Lorsch said a study published in the Mayo Clinic Proceedings shows that an alarming number of people being discharged from hospitals know little about their diagnoses and medications.

The study found that 62 percent of patients didn’t know the purpose of their medications, 86 percent didn’t know the side effects of their medications and 58 percent didn’t know their diagnosis.

The way MyMedicalRecords works is rather impressive: Subscribers get a personal toll-free number that anyone can use to fax items to or leave a voice message. An e-mail alerts the subscriber that the fax or voice message is available. The user can then log on to “file” the item in an appropriate location — by patient, provider or whatever.

You also can create an “emergency” file that any health care provider, anywhere, can reach via phone and use to retrieve critical information. If you’re traveling, this service is invaluable.

In testing, the service is easy to use; faxing works just fine and the documents come across perfectly. I’ve also used the calendar service to make sure I’m on track for my next doctor’s appointment.

A side benefit to this, of course, is that the electronic records, hosted on a secure server, are an excellent backup in case of fire, flood or — as was seen in Louisiana and Mississippi last year — hurricane. Under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, known as HIPAA, you’re entitled to ask your physician to fax those records to your number.

Along with medical records, copies of other sensitive items such as passports, wills and stock certificates also can be stored securely online and then retrieved via the Web or a phone call. What really ends up being is an “electronic safe deposit box,” with lower cost and easier access than any bank. I think it’s worth checking out, at

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