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Vacation safety net: medical records access

No one envisions a trip to the urgent care or emergency room as part of their summer vacation.

The recent death of actor James Gandolfini, 51, while on vacation in Italy, while shocking, brings to light the reality that the unexpected can and does happen. Being able to provide the attending physician with the most accurate picture of your medical history can make all the difference in receiving the best care possible.

“Access to a patient’s medical history can make a significant difference for a doctor who is treating them, especially on an emergency basis,” said Susan Davis-Brown, MD, an internal medicine and pediatric doctor practicing at Brookville Family Care, a member of Premier HealthNet.

However, packing a bulky medical chart in an already stuffed suitcase or committing a list of medication names and the appropriate doses to memory isn’t always a reality. But thanks to the use of electronic medical records, patients can travel this summer with the assurance that their medical history and medicine lists are right alongside them. MyChart, a secure and user-friendly patient website, allows individuals to access their personal medical information wherever there is Internet access or even through the touch of its smartphone app.

Dr. Davis-Brown said it’s important for doctors to know a patient’s medical conditions — including the medicines they are taking and the dosage — because it can determine what medications are given for the problem they are experiencing. The right medication can help avoid adverse drug events (ADE), which cause over 700,000 emergency department visits each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Also, through MyChart, a treating doctor will know what a patient’s normal lab results are so they have a baseline. “Some people have variations from the normal and you can potentially avoid a lot of work up if you know that is the person’s baseline,” said Dr. Davis-Brown.

Cory Newhouse of Riverside is a patient at Beavercreek Family Medicine and knows firsthand the ease and convenience of MyChart, having used it many times herself. She finds it reassuring to have the service available for an upcoming trip. “I’m going to Clearwater Beach, FL in September for my daughter’s wedding,” said Newhouse. “It’s comforting to know I have MyChart available so they (doctors) can see my medications, lab results etc.”

While MyChart is a great option to have while traveling, Dr. Davis-Brown advises patients to have a backup by keeping a written list of medications with them at all times, since Internet access can be unpredictable. Also, Dr. Davis-Brown and her fellow doctors at Premier HealthNet reiterate that MyChart should never be used in urgent medical situations. Patients should call their physicians immediately if a situation requires immediate medical attention or dial 911 if it’s a medical emergency.

“The bottom line is that you never know what might happen to you,” Dr. Davis-Brown said. “Nine times out of 10 you’re going to be just fine, but there are certain medications that have certain interactions and if you aren’t sure of what you are taking then you might have problems with it. But with MyChart, you can pull it up and the doctor can take a look at it and give you something that will work.”

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