Last week, as I performed my morning ritual of checking email and drinking coffee, a subject line from my local police department’s notification system caught my eye. It read: Illinois Department of Transportation-Yellow Dot Program. Having been a Chicago-area resident for 36 years, I’ve been conditioned to assume whatever IDOT is announcing is going irritate me. Fully prepared to be annoyed by another expressway lane closure, construction project, etc., I opened the email.
I was surprised to read that the Yellow Dot Program was not something that was going to make my commute (even) worse or get me a ticket. It’s actually a traffic safety initiative meant to improve emergency care for those involved in vehicle crashes. Yellow Dot participants are given a bright yellow decal for the rear window of their car and a corresponding yellow folder. When first responders arrive on the scene of an accident and see the yellow dot, they will know there is a folder in the glove compartment with the driver’s photo, emergency contact information, physician information, medical conditions, recent surgeries, allergies and current medications.
My first thought was, “Thank goodness they aren’t closing lanes on the Kennedy,” followed by, “That’s a great idea! I’ll have to do that but too bad it’s not electronic.”
The folks at the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology would have probably thought the same thing. Why do I say this? During September’s National Health IT Week, the ONC encouraged the nation’s Registered Nurses ask for their e-health records. The Ask for Your e-Health Records campaign is a partnership between the ONC, the Alliance for Nursing Informatics and American Nurses Association. The campaign’s goals are twofold — to get nurses to encourage patients be more vested in their health care and to get RNs to be more active patients as well.
Getting nurses to spread the word about e-health records is a wonderful idea. We are often the ones who spend the most time with patients. And when we’re out and about in the “general population” we’re often asked for advice on healthcare related issues. When people find out my background is in neuroscience, they’ll ask me for neurologist and neurosurgeon suggestions, want me to help figure out why their hand, foot, arm, etc., is numb, or pose any number of other health questions to me. So to having knowledge of e-health records and how and why patients should request them would be handy information to have. I could slip that information in after my standard disclaimer for any health advice I give, “If you’re concerned you should probably go see your doctor.” Now I will add, “And while you’re there you should ask for you e-health record.”
My new disclaimer will probably trigger more questions about how to go about getting e-health records. To help answer those questions, the ANA created a very informative toolkit. I also think personal experience is valuable to share with patients. With this in mind, I’m taking the ONC Consumer Campaign Pledge and will be requesting my own e-health records.
Watch for a future post about my experience. In the meantime, I encourage you to request your own e-health records and be ready to share your experiences here and with health care consumers. I look forward to hearing all about it. ♦
Jennifer Thew, RN, MSJ
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