Don't forget to protect vital medical info

Daily News staff

Thursday, June 1, 2006

With alarming predictions from forecasters, the 2006 hurricane season will soon have residents of the Gulf Coast and along the eastern seaboard getting ready to prepare their homes, their pets and loved ones to stay safe in the event a storm heads in their direction.

The media and government agencies offer hurricane preparedness guides about stocking up on non-perishable foods, flashlights, water and batteries and safeguarding important documents.

But what about vital medical records?

Americans have long assumed their doctors and hospitals have the means to file and store their medical records but the horrific devastation from Hurricane Katrina last year is evidence that isn't always the case. An estimated 1 million people lost their medical records because of Katrina.

"There may not have been an experience that demonstrates, for me or the country, more powerfully the need for electronic medical records," Mike Leavitt, secretary of U.S. Health and Human Services, said in a prepared statement.

Help is available from MedeFile International, a Cedar Knolls, N.J.-based company that is offering a new and cost-effective way for patients to gain control of their medical records. The new service provides customers, doctors, emergency room doctors and paramedics with secure access to medical records 24 hours a day from virtually anywhere in the world.

Upon subscription and authorization, MedeFile personnel will contact and collect all medical records from designated health practitioners. As duplicate medical records are received, they are digitized and stored in a vault owned by the company, called MedeVault, which is a highly protected computerized records facility.

Members are then issued a MedeDrive, a small external portable USB key that contains emergency medical information as well as other medical information.

The MedeDrive is attached to a standard key ring, similar to the new ATM cards so it can be carried at all times. In case of emergency, health-care providers can immediately view the member's emergency information such as current medications, allergies and emergency contacts while limiting access to the member's full medical records until authorization is given.

Any changes to the member's medical condition, medications or patient information can be easily updated by visiting the MedeFile Web site for uploading.

"If doctors or emergency personnel don't have up-to-date medical records on a person being treated, that could be dangerous in the long run," said Kevin Hauser, director of business development for MedeFile.

For more information, go the company's Web site at www.medefile.com.

© 2006 Naples Daily News and NDN Productions. Published in Naples, Florida, USA by the E.W. Scripps Co.