Up-to-date health files being placed in the hands of patients

Mainstream Health

Posted: 11 August 2010


Up-to-date health files being placed in the hands of patients

New Zealanders are being encouraged to sign-up for online access to their medical files and take ownership of their own health records.

Not-for-profit organisation MedicAlert, which supplies members’ health information in the event of emergencies, has established Patient Vitals, a national electronic health records service allowing users to log-in and see their current health information.

“With this secure web-based system, any individual that has opted into the service can use their password to log on at anytime and from anywhere in the country – or the world – to access their own medical information,” says MedicAlert CEO Murray Lord.

“A person’s medical information is their own, they have a right to see it and being able to see it enables them to play an active role in monitoring their health and taking positive steps to improve or manage it.”

“Until now though it has been hard for an individual to readily access their medical information, it has typically ended up in a clinician’s paper files, or in several clinicians’ files. Patient Vitals means the information is essentially following the individual and is stored and accessible using a secure personal login (like banking software).”

In what MedicAlert believes to be a Global First, the MedicAlert Patient Vitals system (which is based on the ManageMyHealth technology from Medtech) is directly linked to the patient management system (PMS) used by over 80% of General Practices in New Zealand.

“GPs use the PMS to store health information, manage appointments, get lab results and patients can use their online access to view these results or to remind them of prescription recalls or keep track of health indicators, such as their blood pressure, over time.”

This new MedicAlert Patient Vitals service is already available to MedicAlert’s existing 132,500 members in New Zealand and is covered by the non-profit organisation’s annual membership fee of only $30.

Lord says MedicAlert will continue to enter vital patient health information supplied by clinicians on paper, to the patient’s electronic record but says eventually all medical information will routinely be supplied electronically and updated to the patient’s record in real-time.

“If when a patient first accesses their record, information they expect to be there is not immediately available it may mean that the health professional hasn’t entered it electronically or has decided it isn’t necessary to add to their vital health record.

“People can ask MedicAlert to add information provided it is from a registered medical practitioner and MedicAlert will then clinically authenticate it and enter it in the electronic health record.”

“The system is rolling out around the country and in time your general practitioner will be able to issue you an authorisation code. When you enter the code in the Patient Vitals system you will have greater access to more personal health information.”

MedicAlert’s service is also very valuable to families responsible for caring for an elderly family member. With permission, Lord says a family member can access vital health information to help monitor and protect their loved one’s health, welfare and safety.

Lord says MedicAlert’s systems can also provide patients with greater certainty around their own “advanced directives” for non-resuscitation or organ donation.

“It is often the case that people set out quite specific requests for what they would like to happen in terms of their treatment in the event of an emergency or serious accident, but when the information is needed, medical professionals either cannot access it or they can’t confirm that it is valid in a timely manner,” says Lord.

Unknown medical conditions, drug allergies or ongoing medications being taken by an individual can all present serious risks to a patient in an emergency when it is not quickly and reliably accessible from a trusted source like MedicAlert, Lord says.

“MedicAlert is trusted by medical professionals around the world. In New Zealand MedicAlert understands clinicians have made over 1.4 million diagnoses of medical conditions, including respiratory, heart, diabetes, epilepsy, anaphylaxis and alzheimers, with some patients having multiple diagnoses – all of which could be complicating factors in a patient’s diagnosis or treatment in an emergency.”

“Signing up for MedicAlert’s Patient Vitals service means none of that vital health information is hidden and medical professionals can make diagnoses and treatment decisions with the advantage of the facts.”

“It is an incredibly valuable resource being able to access critical health information when and where it is needed right at the scene on an incident– it can prevent mistakes, save money and save lives.

“Around the world economic impact reports are being used to justify hundreds of millions of dollars of investment in electronic health records (EHR) and MedicAlert already has an operational service here in New Zealand,” says Lord.


MedicAlert background

MedicAlert is a non-profit organisation with international affiliates around the world. MedicAlert was established in New Zealand in 1962 and maintains a database of members' vital medical information that is made available to medical authorities in the event of an emergency. Members supply critical medical data to the organisation and receive a distinctive, unique and internationally recognised metal bracelet or necklace tag which is worn at all times. It can be used by law enforcement or emergency medical personnel to access their vital medical information and special medical needs. MedicAlert currently has 132,500 active members in New Zealand.

Diagnosed but hidden

Complicating health conditions facing over 1.3m New Zealanders in an emergency (figures advised by national health-based organisations) As some New Zealanders have multiple diagnoses, it is estimated by MedicAlert that over 500,000 New Zealanders may have a hidden medical condition meriting immediate referral to MedicAlert in the interest of patient safety.

Medical condition

No. of NZers with the medical condition

Percentage of NZ population



















Autism Spectrum Disorder






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