Ambulance at 8,000 feet

John Taylor: May 31, 20131 Comments

No television. Scant cell signal. Mystical, nature-sculpted rock formations called hoodoos. The Lodge at Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah. Rustic. Tranquil. Elevation, about 8,000 feet.  Breath taking. Literally. Take five breaths where you’d take three at lower elevations. And what happens if….. or when…

As most of us on the bus tour awed our way through the evening, one of our companions from New York experienced shortness of breath, elevated blood pressure, coming from a family with, as they say, “heart issues.” An ambulance from an Intermountain Health System hospital chugged up the grade to bring him to flatter lands for treatment. After a sense of surprise, my first thought was: Did he bring any kind of medical records with him?

Later in the trip, another medical event. A woman had mislaid her insulin. Folks asked the tour guide about connecting with a physician for an electronic script to fill in some pharmacy down the road. Fortunately, her meds showed up. But again the same question: How well medically prepared can you be for travel, especially out in the boonies.

I’ve been on a plane when a medical emergency occurred, and on a cruise ship where a Coast Guard helicopter swooped in for a stricken passenger.

Electronic health records are a reality, but for most of us it is a “slowly being phased in” reality. At Community Medical Centers, that means the Epic system, which I recently experienced while assisting a loved one in the Clovis Emergency Department. I know Community and other providers in the Valley are working to interconnect dissimilar systems – to allow computers to talk with each other.  But while a New Yorker taken ill in the Utah high country may find it easy to use his insurance card, it may be a while until a transcontinental electronic conversation about his health history can occur in real times of need.

In the meantime, when my family travels, we carry a red file folder containing a printout of our key medical events, medications, supplements, including dosages, and allergies. Also, a durable power of attorney. We don’t trust our memories to serve us, especially in stressful times.

And we eagerly await the kind of confidential, global connectivity that Epic and others will eventually provide wherever we travel.

One response to Ambulance at 8,000 feet

In 2011 I went on a mission

In 2011 I went on a mission trip to El Salvador. In our group was a man in his early 60's. His wife was worried about a medical event during the trip. They had Kaiser insurance and Kaiser put all of his medical history on a flash drive that he carried around his neck 24 hours a day. I thought that was a great idea!

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