Records online for MedicAlert members

Posted: 16 August 2010

By CHERYL NORRIE - BusinessDay.co.nz

Last updated 05:00 16/08/2010

 

MedicAlert, best known for supplying bracelets that flag customers' allergies and health conditions, has introduced a secure web-based system that lets members access their medical records online via a personal login.

Chief executive Murray Lord believes the system, Patient Vitals, is a "world first", and opens up the possibility of patients interactively managing their own health conditions. It is based on technology developed by Australian-owned information technology company Medtech, and is integrated with Medtech's general-practice patient management system, which is used by about 85 per cent of New Zealand GPs.

"GPs use the patient management system to store health information, manage appointments and to get lab results. Patients can use [Patient Vitals] to view these results or to remind them of prescription recalls, or to keep track of health indicators, such as their blood pressure," Mr Lord says.

The system is being made available to MedicAlert's 132,000 members, included as part of their $30 annual membership, but Mr Lord believes it could have a much wider application. He says it offers benefits to the estimated 500,000 New Zealanders who suffer from potentially life-threatening conditions. It could help medical staff find out what medication patients were taking, so they could prevent adverse interactions.

Mr Lord says MedicAlert has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars developing the system, but has been able to leverage the millions of dollars in investment made by Medtech. "MedicAlert has got off lightly in terms of the capital. Because we are a not-for-profit organisation we have to be very careful about the sort of money we spend. When we first looked at this as a project, we were aware that it could cost us $1 million or $2m and that was going to be too much of a risk."

He says MedicAlert began researching options for electronic patient access to medical records two years ago, crossed paths with Medtech a year ago, and has already begun rolling out the service to its members.

MedicAlert says the system also has potential for families caring for elderly family members, allowing them, with permission, to access information and help monitor the person's health.

Johan Vos, chief executive of Alzheimers New Zealand, says that with the number of dementia sufferers doubling every 20 years, the web-based system offers their carers a much better opportunity to gain more information about a patient's medical treatment and have a greater input into their care.

"Often a person with dementia may wander and we don't know who this person is. If they have a MedicAlert bracelet, then the information can come up straight away. Technology is knowledge."

MedicAlert also allows members to place "living wills" on the site, noting their wishes on non-resuscitation or organ donation.

Mr Lord says: "It is often the case that people set out quite specific requests for what they would like to happen in terms of their treatment, but when the information is needed, medical professionals either cannot access it or they can't confrim that it is valid in a timely manner."

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