So why does MedicAlert want all this information anyway?
There aren’t too many of us that have ever had a glimpse at a health record. And for those who have not, it may seem as though all health records would be the same. Truth is, they’re not.
Not all health records are created equal – the four kinds of health records
✔️There’s the EMR or Electronic Medical Record. This is the electronic record your doctor keeps. They are the only one that has access to this record, and they use it to help manage your health over time.
✔️There’s the EHR or Electronic Health Record. EHRs are a secure, integrated collection of a person’s encounters with the health care system. They provide a comprehensive digital view of a patient’s health history. These are the records that are typically connected at the provincial level, but there has long been a desire to have a standard, national EHR.
✔️There’s the PHR or Personal Health Record. PHRs have become increasingly more common in the last few years with the advent of more sophisticated health technology and wearables. A PHR is owned, managed, and shared by a person or their legal proxy(s). It is not a legal record unless and is subject to various legal limitations. PHRs are usually used by people to help manage personal health goals. Think of things like a Fitbit or MyChart. It is not connected to the health care system.
✔️Lastly there is the EHR or Emergency Health Record. MedicAlert is the only provider of EHRs in Canada. An EHR’s primary use is for emergency response. Its secondary use is similar to the PHR and is a helpful tool for people in supporting their health care needs in many different circumstances.
So why is MedicAlert’s EHR different?
EMRs and EHRs are built for doctors. They are essentially health histories that help physicians understand your health over a long period of time so they can effectively diagnose and treat. PHRs are built for the average layperson and caregivers and are used, typically, to manage chronic health conditions in non-emergency, non-hospital, non-clinic settings.
MedicAlert’s EHR or Emergency Health Record, is built specifically for first responders. First responders, be they paramedics, police, or firefighters need different kinds of information for the work they do. They also need information that enables them to help each other when they are working an emergency scene together.
For example, a paramedic’s primary job is to stabilize a person so they can transport them to a hospital for diagnosis and treatment. That means a paramedic is most interested in what kind of health condition you have that may impact how they stabilize you. They also want to know what kind of medications you might be on so they don’t inadvertently give you a medication that could make your situation worse. They may also need to understand what medication they need to give you to help stabilize your condition.
Police, who are not clinical first responders, are most often the first on scene in a health emergency. They will provide key information to paramedics when they first arrive, which allows paramedics to work more quickly. Police also need different kinds of information for the work they do. What’s most important for police to know usually relates to mental health conditions, or cognitive conditions such as autism, brain injury or fetal alcohol syndrome for example. These “invisible” conditions may not be easy to spot at first and can be easily misconstrued. However, if police are aware of a person’s condition through MedicAlert, it gives them more information and helps them to change strategies when in contact with a person in distress. Where police also need information relates to dementia. Police departments do the majority of search and rescue for people who wander. Most people who wander do so without having any form of identification with them. In these cases, information on physical appearance, distinguishing marks, patterns of wandering behaviours, triggers and descalations are critical in helping to find someone and return them safely home.
Firefighters are also not clinical first responders, but the unique situations they are called to most often deal with safety issues. For example, they want to know who in a burning building may have a mobility issue, who might be on oxygen therapy, who might have a heart condition and where these people are located in the building. This information helps them to quickly design their evacuation strategies.
More recently, MedicAlert has teamed up with the Federal Ground Search and Rescue Incident Command System. This system is currently being tested and will be put in place to help manage large natural disaster search and rescue scenarios or mass evacuations. Having health information at their fingertips helps Search and Rescue teams to plan and coordinate more effectively and could help to save lives during these highly stressful events.
A Word of Advice
At MedicAlert, we do our best to remind you of the importance of keeping your health information up-to-date. In fact, in our Subscriber Agreement, there is an obligation for members to update their health information at least once per year.
First response is extremely challenging.
Giving our first responder community the information they need to be able to do the best job they can to help you in an emergency, no matter how small or insignificant it may seem to be at the time you are filling out your health information, is vital.
Our best advice is this. Just like you change your batteries in your smoke alarm when the clocks go forward or back in the Spring and Fall… make time to check your MedicAlert Emergency Health Record. Make sure even the smallest detail is added or updated.
You never know when that one piece of information could help save your life.