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Going Online With Kids’ Medical Records

17 Feb

My little munchkin was born with some health issues and I’ve spent a ton of time in doctor appointments over the past six months. From pediatricians to physical and occupational therapists to neurologists, it’s been a challenge keeping all the appointments – yet alone the information and records – straight. For this reason, we chose a pediatrician who can securely post pateints’ medical records online.  Here’s some helpful things I learned about parenting in a world with online medical records:

The good:

  • I can access my child’s information from anywhere, anytime, as long as I can get on the Internet. If we’re traveling and I need to know when she had her last tetanus shot, I can just look it up. Or if I’m going to another doctor’s appointment, I can print out her records at home and bring them with me.
  • There’s no guesswork after the appointment. (E.g. “What was that he said about solid foods? How many diapers should she be going through at this age?) It’s all there.
  • The records are thorough. From general behavioral reminders (Keep kids away from small objects) and eating guides (Introduce yellow vegetables first), to customized, specific notes (Still seeing Dr. X for physical therapy 3x week) the records are lengthy and in-depth.
  • Our entire family’s records are available. Because it’s a family practice, not only does the doctor have her records, he knows who in our family has had chicken pox, a history of allergies, etc.
  •  It was the deciding factor.  Comparing pediatricians, when all things were equal, the online medical records are what tipped the scale.

The not-so-good:

  • The online interface isn’t that easy or intuitive. If I just want to find her inoculations dates, I have to comb through an entire record to find them.
  • There’s no alert mechanism. If I email the doc a quick question, I don’t get any notification that he’s responded. The onus is on me to keep checking back. (And he only answers emails through this tool.) Also, there are no alert reminders about appointments or milestones (shots, etc.)
  •  The records come pre-populated with standard info, and the doc customizes for my child by adding info as we talk during the appointment. This presents not only a tech hurdle (some things aren’t accurate/specific to my child) but also a personal one (doc spends as much time hunting and pecking on a keyboard as he does checking out my kid.)
  • Only one of my doctors has the tool. So while I can get her pediatric records, I still don’t have access to her physical therapy or occupational therapy records online.
  • Dialog and patient interaction suffers. Have you ever asked someone a serious medical question while they’re trying to update a document in real-time?  (And a screaming 4 month old in your lap?!)   Doc often focuses on getting the paperwork done before I leave the office, and the report is often at the expense of a more personal “bedside manner”.

Overall, if you don’t have access to online pediatric records now, I’d recommend having the discussion with your doctor. Despite the glitches, the convenience of being able to access your child’s medical records anywhere, anytime is a big win for parents. (Especially when it’s 3 a.m. and you can’t remember how much Tylenol – if any – your doctor said you should give a feverish baby.)  And being able to print out hard copies – especially when trekking  from doctor to doctor – helps keep everyone on the same page.

And while this “tech tool” doesn’t help me get her to her appointments on time or amuse her in the waiting room, it’s a valuable tool that will help me as a parent be a better medical treatment advocate for my munchkin.   Hooray for technology.