A year ago, in “Could Data Make You Live Longer?”, I wrote about how improved care and improved public health are helping us live into our 80s and beyond, in unprecedented numbers: by 2050 nearly one in 20 of us will be over 85. My own mom is already there – she’s 88 this weekend! – I’m thrilled that my two super-sisters are on top of her care.
Five years ago they may have saved her life: transferred to a new facility after surgery, she met a new doctor, and her information in the chart was wrong. Somehow the data got scrambled, and he could easily have prescribed medication that would have been detrimental to her health. But my sisters caught the mistake before harm was done.
This is patient engagement in full flower: engaged family members contributed to chart accuracy, avoiding harm and all its consequences, at no cost to the system. How great is that?
Not everyone is so lucky. My friend Jack’s mother [not his real name] died prematurely because her cardiologist and oncologist didn’t coordinate, so an essential biopsy was never done. The information was available, but no single individual had responsibility or incentive to look for it.
This was a care coordination issue, causing care to fall short: each highly trained specialist contributed, but the system failed.
Such innocent mistakes can be lethal despite the best of intentions. A few years later Jack’s pre-school son, visiting relatives, went into anaphylactic shock as a drug reaction to Benadryl. He recovered and they entered “Benadryl” in the chart, but not why, so the chart had a gaping hole. Years later the boy got the same medicine and had the same severe reaction.
A mother’s early demise; her grandson potentially killed. Both because of holes in their charts. In such cases an activated, engaged patient and family can make all the difference. Are you prepared? Do you ensure in every case that all doctors know what they should?