I was home relaxing when I received a call from Uncle Johnny. When I saw on the Caller-ID that it was him, I braced myself. Calls with my Uncle Johnny were never brief, by nature he was loud so I had to yell too, and his conversations always involved more than a few swear words. My uncle has been described as a gun not a pistol, but a gun!
"Hey! Uncle Johnny!' What's up?" as I prepared myself for one of his unusual requests.
He began loudly, "Kafi! I'm thinkin' I need you to write a letter for me to Obama! I don't think he knows what's going on here with this health care thing, and I just thought I need to tell him.''
I was intrigued. I asked "What's going on that you want me to tell the President about? What do you think he needs to know?"
"Well, I know he has this thing about electronic medical records." My uncle explained. I was impressed; Uncle Johnny knew about EMRs! But they don't work! A week ago I went to the hospital, see, to have my blood work done. Then, today I went back to my doctor who works upstairs for a follow up. He was supposed to read the lab results and tell me what's wrong but he didn't have the results!' That doesn't make any sense!' I mean, he has the computer right there. He can see that I went to the lab, but he can't see the results! What the hell does he have the computer for then if he can't see the results? So now, I got to make another appointment to go back to that doctor after I get the lab results from the hospital!' It was a total waste of time.
Instantly, I understood what my uncle had encountered. The doctor should have told him that it was my uncle's job to bring his lab results with him to his follow-up appointment or to call first to make sure the lab had sent them on.' Uncle Johnny wrongly assumed that because his doctor's office was in the hospital where his blood was drawn, and both had computerized records, the doctor would be able to see is lab results on his computer.
I explained to my uncle that what he faced was the same thing that many of us have faced: there's a lot on us as patients that we don't realize and we're not told about. Before we get to expensive -- but helpful -- electronic medical records, physicians can afford to implement a basic guide to their practices that makes clear the expectations they have for their patients, and what patients can expect from them. There are other resources, including learning how to ask for medical records and test results, and creating online personal health records, that can help patients keep track of their information themselves.
In the end, we decided not to write a letter to President Obama, but we wrote one heck of a letter to his doctor!