For some years, medical errors in healthcare affecting morbidity statistics in the United States have been rising. Indeed, medical record errors are growing, and one of the main reasons is inaccurate patient information. If the risk exists within a country, it exists as well within a global context. To protect employees and relatives from that risk, there are easy accessible and reliable solutions.
In 1999, the Institute of Medicine reported up to 100,000 deaths from medical errors in healthcare annually in the United States. In 2010, the Office of the Inspector General for the Department of Health and Human Services reported poor hospital care contributed to the deaths of 180,000 individuals; and new surveys are emerging, particularly, from the Journal of Patient Safety, with more alarming figures.
From that information, Marshall Allen estimates that this data “would make medical errors in healthcare the third-leading cause of death in America, behind heart disease, which is the first, and cancer, which is second.”1 And one major cause is incomplete patient information.
That may happen as well in the case of treatment abroad. And by definition, we all are tourists. Indeed, nowadays, we all move to a different state and/or country easily and at reasonable cost. We can be considered a tourist for different reasons:
– Business (expats, business travelers…)
– Private (alone or in family) – Medical (treatment in another country for medical expertise or lower costs).
In the event of an accident or emergency health issue – on a business or personal trip — how are medical records shared with the local physicians?
That question is essential. Time is scarce in these cases, which happen every day around the world. The importance of getting quick access to the updated medical history for doctors is paramount:
1. To reduce medical errors in healthcare, double-check the foreign patient’s condition by cross-checking the provided information;
2. Save time in medical deliberation and avoid medical complications that may result in dramatic consequences.
Even when a treatment is planned, a medical profile and history is the first information a physician needs. Within the timeframe of medical tourism, any patient and physician cannot miss that step, which is, again, essential. Most of the factors are following qualitative processes in order to get the best ration cost/expertise/quality of treatment.
From that information, the physician at the local destination will be able to organize in an optimal way a stay, group the skilled persons toward the medical profile and be ready in case of complications during treatment.
However, patients should always leave the hospital or clinic with their medical records. This will enable another physician to understand the full medical profile should complications arise upon a return home or while travelling.
Employees are a company’s most important resource. Their time, skills and health are precious. Health and safety policies help employers ensure the best conditions for their employees to thrive at work. You can easily prepare to assist medical doctors and improve your safety and that of your loved ones in case a health problem happens in your home country or overseas by:
1. Getting a digitized copy of your health records including reports and images from the facility where you had a treatment or a test;
2. Checking for past incidents of anesthesia or allergies;
3. Getting your blood group card and checking your vaccines and boosters;
4. Asking your family physician to confirm any data collected data;
5. Storing medical information electronically to enable international access to you and doctors.
Technical and Personal Safety
Medical records are sensitive data. Sharing such information prior, during or after a treatment, in the case of emergency or simply for medical follow-up requires a level of security as essential as access to your bank account. An employer providing such an essential employee benefit should be confident that they have chosen a vendor with international experience.
Information should be easy to understand and accommodating to both the language of patient and doctor. However, that may not be enough. If a patient is unconscious or not able to speak when transferred or at the hospital, doctors will face additional barriers to access information.
About the Author
SWISS MEDBANK, located in the heart of the Health Valley, specialized in the secure storage of health data storage. In five continents, Swiss MedBank facilitates dialogue between patient and physician. Patented solutions help to overcome obstacles – unconsciousness, internet access and language – that patients might face when travelling to an overseas healthcare provider.
For more information, visit www.swissmedbank. com or contact Jeff Coxon, jeff.coxon@swiss- medbank.com.
1 Allen, M.; “How Many Die from Medical Mistakes In U.S. Hospitals?”; ProPublica; Sept. 20, 2013; http://www.propublica.org/ article/how-many-die-from-medical-mistakes-in-us-hospitals; Accessed March 13, 2015.