Recently, I had a routine medical scan at a diagnostic imaging center. When I walked in, the office manager handed me a clipboard full of medical history and consent forms. I was surprised that this state-of-the-art facility was still collecting patient data on paper, but I did as I was asked.

I also wondered why they asked me for this information, which I had already provided to the doctor who referred me. I suppose the doctor’s office had not sent my data over. Aren’t Electronic Health Records supposed to alleviate the need to reinput data?

After 15 minutes of filling out forms, I handed them back to the office manager. She glanced at the forms, then at her computer screen, and asked me when I had changed addresses. It turned out the address they had on file for me was for a place I hadn’t lived at in 33 years!

The same thing happened to me several years ago, although with another doctor and a different address. Both incidents shook me a bit. We’ve come to expect that medical technology will bring us better care and a better patient experience. But technology can fail, and when it does, it can be unnerving.

I began to wonder how in the world, on two separate occasions, old data was retained in my medical records. It also made me wonder what other old data might be lurking in the EHR—data that might be crucial to my health. (If any EHR experts are reading this, I’d like to know how something like this happened and what can be done to prevent it.)

Despite the inconvenience of filling out the forms, it turned out to be a good thing, since it turned up an inconsistency in my medical record. The lesson is that no matter how smart computers and EHR systems are, they’re only as good as the data we put into them. We all need to be responsible for our own data and make sure it’s accurate and up-to-date.

Andrew Karp
Group Editor, Lenses and Technology
[email protected]