Breast Cancer is a disease which seems to touch everyone’s life, no one is immune to it, including me. Being a Healthcare IT Consultant, as well as having a pharmacy background, I am well aware of the importance of early diagnosis and how crucial the correct treatment plan can be. However, it wasn’t until this disease affected someone in my life that I truly realized how much the work I do with EHRs plays such a pivotal role in the fight against breast cancer.
A few years ago, a very close friend and work colleague of mine was diagnosed with breast cancer. It was discovered during her annual breast exam. Both of us were in the HIT field and traveled every week for work, which made for a very hectic lifestyle. She commented how grateful she was that she received the email reminder to go the doctor for her check-up—being on the road and trying to remember everything that needed to get done when she returned home was difficult, and this was one less thing she needed to worry about. In fact, if she hadn’t received that reminder, she would have missed the appointment and it could have been months before she would have remembered and rescheduled. I always think of the statement she made, and wonder if the outcome would have been different if there were a few months’ delay.
Throughout her treatment, she relied heavily on her electronic medical record to monitor her progress as well as plan for treatment. Like many women who are fighting this disease, they are strong and want to continue their normal life and routines while undergoing treatment, and that is exactly what she did. While on the road, she was able to have her blood drawn at an out-of-state lab facility that would send the results to her oncologist electronically. She was able to see the results and plan her work and treatment schedule accordingly. There were times that her white blood cell count was too low for chemotherapy, so she was able to continue working the full week on a client site and not fly home early. Because she had this valuable information at her fingertips, she was able to maintain her normal work schedule and daily activities. She said that had she not been able to see results in real-time and plan for travel that week, she would have had to sit home and go stir crazy waiting for that next treatment.
Throughout her treatment plan, my colleague was able to communicate back and forth with her oncologist electronically, loop in her primary physician, monitor her lab results, view her oncology appointments, easily get prescriptions refilled at the pharmacy at home or at the client and, most importantly, once treatment was over, plan follow up visits and see mammography reports and lab results in real-time. Having all this information electronically and at her finger tips really made a world of difference. Even 10 years later, we still smile every time she gets that email to follow up with her physician and how a simple email reminder can make such a difference in someone’s life.
Having witnessed this first hand, I carry this experience with me while I am working on a client site. There are many projects I am involved in that have me reviewing treatment plans, therapy plans and order sets (depending which software vendor we are using) that map out, from start to finish, the medications, nursing and physician orders as well as patient reminders. I think about my good friend and the fact that she is someone’s mother, grandmother and wife, and hope that the work I do with electronic medical records will continue to help women who are battling breast cancer and aid in the early diagnosis of this disease.