Medication History: There's an App for That
The iPhone Health App provides a new tool for patients to keep track of important medical information that first responders can access.
In order to provide the best pharmaceutical care to patients in the emergency department (ED), it’s critical to have the most up-to-date patient history as possible.
From the perspective of the medication expert in the ED, it is often a struggle to acquire a complete medication history in an accurate and timely manner. Often, this medication reconciliation process consumes multiple resources and valuable time.
In an ideal scenario, a centralized medical record that would be accessible to health care professionals anywhere would streamline the process and enhance communication among levels of patient care. While this prospect exists in the distant future, currently available technology can help all health care professionals today.
For patients who have an iPhone 4S or newer generation, the updated iOS 8 operating system comes standard with the new Health app. You may already be familiar with the television ads that show how the app can track calories consumed and burned, daily doses of caffeine ingested, and some physical measurements like height and weight, but a novel feature for this app is the Medical ID record.
This built-in feature allows the Health app user to input past medical history, allergies, emergency contacts, and additional medical notes (religion, primary care physician, pharmacy phone number, etc.), as well as current medications. While this information is secured in the app, the user can elect to have it accessible through the home lock screen without knowing the phone’s password code.
Similar features existed on previous iPhones, through which a user could dial 911 without unlocking the phone. With this feature extending to the Medical ID record, in the event that the user (patient) is unresponsive or otherwise not able to provide this important medical history, first responders can quickly access this information to provide safe and effective care. For those of us in the ED, it can help provide additional medical history, medication use, and allergies in order to stabilize the patient to a point where we can conduct a more complete history.
While such technologies are promising, they come with risk of the information being stolen or privacy being breeched. For pharmacists providing patient counseling services or discharge medication education, this type of technology is a valuable avenue of discussion.
Pharmacists are in a unique position to engage in conversations weighing the benefits of having this information accessible with the privacy risks and ultimately allowing the patients to make their own choice. However, these aspects require regulatory oversight and guidance from pharmacy organizations before broad adoption of this advantageous technology. I hope that this type of debate can be resolved before the iPhone 7 becomes available.