On a recent Friday night at the Boston Children's Hospital ER, Dr. Fabienne Bourgeois was having difficulty treating a 17-year-old boy with a heart problem. The teen had transferred in from another hospital, where he had already had an initial work-up – including a chest X-ray and an EKG to check the heart's electrical activity. But by the time he reached pediatrician Bourgeois, she had no access to those records so she gave him another EKG and chest X-ray. He was on multiple medications, and gave her a list of them. But his list differed from the one his mother gave doctors, neither of which matched the list his previous hospital had sent along.
Because it was nearly 10 p.m., the doctors couldn't get in touch with the teen's pharmacy or previous clinicians. It wasn't until the next morning that the doctors confirmed which medication he was on and were able to insure that he had the correct drugs for his condition. Bourgeois says the best her team could do was care for him that night with medications "we hoped would be safe" and treat his symptoms.
That is not an isolated incident. Nearly one in three Massachusetts adults with multiple ER trips visited separate hospitals — some upwards of five — creating a host of dangerous and costly problems because full health information is not always shared between hospitals, according to a study published today by the Archives of Internal Medicine.
This program aired on December 14, 2010. The audio for this program is not available.