Electronic Health Records Can Relieve Caregiver Stress; A Caregiver Tells Her Story

Cynthia Whisker, caregiver & social service coordinator, tells her story about the helpful role of Health IT and Electronic Medical RecordsCynthia Whisker, a social service coordinator who counsels families and seniors about how to handle the stress of caregiving for their loved ones, has herself become a caregiver for her husband. Her husband underwent both a liver transplant and heart bypass surgery within the past three years.

Cynthia shares her story on HealthIT.gov, a website operated by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services’ Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC). She conveys how electronic health records shared by her husband’s doctors have played a critical role in the successful coordination of her husband’s care and in relieving her stress as a caregiver.

Cynthia shares her experiences that demonstrate how:

  • Electronic medical records that made all of her husband’s medical history and medication records instantly available to each of his doctors greatly facilitated coordination of his care, reducing the risk of medical errors, and giving her peace of mind as a caregiver;
  • Electronic medical records allowed Cynthia and her husband to print exact instructions for his care at home, eliminating risk of miscommunication with doctors or nurses;
  • When Cynthia’s husband developed a critical condition requiring admission to the hospital, the Emergency Room admissions staff’s instant access to his electronic medical records allowed for life-saving immediate admission to a private hospital room;
  • When Cynthia and her husband were vacationing in another state and he required emergency heart bypass surgery, electronic medical records within that hospital system aided the coordination of his care there, but critical coordination between the operating doctors and his own doctors at home and sharing of important medical information between them could have been greatly facilitated had the two medical systems had electronic records systems that could communicate with each other — especially since the incident occurred over a holiday weekend.

Based on her experience, Cynthia offers some tips for family caregivers:

“The use of EHRs [electronic medical records] makes my job as his caregiver and co-pilot for all doctor’s appointments so much easier. The availability of these electronic records from doctor to doctor and from office to office has made this often highly stressful caregiving situation so much easier.

I offer a few tips to ease caregiver stress and best prepare for medical emergencies:

  • Carry a Medication List: EHRs [electronic medical records] allow you to print your medication lists and dosages, which can be critical if you run out of your prescription while away from home – like I did. We were planning to stay in Florida for just two weeks, but that turned into five weeks following my husband’s heart bypass surgery. I didn’t bring enough medication for our unexpectedly longer stay in St. Augustine, and I had just refilled my prescriptions at home so I had trouble refilling them again. And because I didn’t carry my prescriptions in their original containers, it was hard to recall the exact dosages I needed for the emergency refills.
  • Carry Copies of Medical Records: Because of my husband’s serious medical condition resulting from his liver transplant, I now understand the need to carry a copy of his extensive EHR with us when we travel.

Facing situations like my husband’s transplant and bypass surgery can be so emotionally stressful, and something as simple as EHRs can help so that I don’t feel like things are spinning out of control or that there is just too much to keep track of in managing his care.”

Read Cynthia Whisker’s story »

View Cynthia Whisker telling her story on video »

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HealthIT.gov is a website operated by the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC), part of the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. As explained on its website, the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) is the principal Federal entity charged with coordinating nationwide efforts to promote and implement use of the most advanced health information technology and electronic exchange of health information to improve health care.

The position of National Coordinator for Health Information Technology was created in 2004, through an Executive Order, and legislatively mandated in the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act (HITECH Act) of 2009.

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More Information

See more Caregiver Stories on HelpingYouCare™

See related HelpingYouCare™ reports on:

At National Health IT Week Summit HHS Proposes New Rules to Give Patients Direct Access to Their Lab Reports

New Patient Safety Program Launched under Affordable Care Act (Health IT to play a key role);

Telemedicine Allows Parkinson’s Patients to Visit Their Doctors by Video Conference

A Free Online Application to Manage Health

American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009: New funds made available to support rural hospitals’ switch to electronic health records

See also the HelpingYouCare™ resource page on Helpful Technology for Elder Needs.

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Copyright © 2012 Care-Help LLC, publisher of HelpingYouCare™.

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