Accidents happen. While travelling, tourists can become sick or injured. People might need medical treatment in a foreign country. And with an increasing number of people travelling abroad for medical procedures, we are beginning to see a change in the way medical information is stored and exchanged.
In the past, the onus of medical record keeping often fell to the patient. When consulting a specialist, or changing doctors, the patient needed to obtain and bring along copies of their medical records. In many areas, or when travelling abroad for a medical procedures, patients are still required to provide and manage their own medical records to ensure their healthcare professionals are all up-to-date. Or in the event of illness, accident or injury when travelling, the patient may not have access to their medical records – or can only obtain them through lengthy procedures requiring authorizations that the patient may not be physically able to provide due to the nature of their injury.
With the advances in technology and digital record-keeping, more and more doctors have migrated to a Health Information Exchange (HIE) which allows the electronic movement of patient information between different organizations.
Records can be accessed by health professionals community-wide, within a specific hospital network or even – as in the province of Ontario – across an entire region. This allows for more timely access to clinical information, and leads to more efficient and effective patient-care. Organizations, sometimes supported directly by government offices, are emerging that focus on creating HIEs nationwide and even worldwide.
Once HIEs are implemented on a planetary scale, medical tourists will no longer need to provide their specialist with a paper copy of their medical records; any medical professional with the necessary credentials could potentially access the relevant information. Further, they would not need to bring back records of the procedures and medications received abroad.
Organizations like Health Level Seven (HL7) International are dedicated to building a framework that will standardize and regulate the exchange, integration, sharing and retrieval of electronic health information; they aim to support clinical practices and better the management, delivery and evaluation of health services.
Over time, we will be able to establish a super-directory of medical records so that information can be shared across international border in a timely manner. This will also prevent important details from being lost in translation as any follow-ups or verifications can be handled at a moment’s notice. The future of medical record keeping will be patient-friendly and ensure that their medical professionals can offer the best care with the most precision and the shortest delays.