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Military PHRs: One Major's opinion

June 13, 2008
by kate
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Have a nagging cough? Ask a doctor. Want an opinion on military PHRs? Ask a Marine.

Last week, I noticed a news release stating that the Military Health System plans to equip all 9.2 million members with PHRs as early as next year (to read the brief, click here). The story piqued my interest, but instead of giving my own thoughts on the subject, I decided to consult someone who knows far more about the military health system than I do. My brother Dan is a Marine of 12 years, whose experiences have run the gamut from serving a tour in Afghanistan to training with the forces of Chile and Peru.

He's always shown an interest in the health IT topics that I've covered, so when something crossed my desk that impacts his line of work, I wanted his take. The reply he gave me wasn't necessarily surprising, but it was both interesting and refreshing. I often find that getting a different perspective can improve my understanding of a subject area or just clarify things a bit. It's kind of like how the comments that resonate most from EMR/PHR conferences usually aren't those heard during demos or even debates on why adoption isn't where it should be (and whose fault that is). Instead, the real gems are those heard in casual conversations with attendants or speakers when they are able to let their guard down and just tell it like it is.

That was the case during my brief exchange with my brother. I asked him whether he honestly through having an EMR while serving overseas would be helpful and would impact him directly, or if it was something he didn't really have a strong opinion on one way or another.

This is what he said: "Personally, I'm glad to hear about the electronic makeover of health records. In my opinion, the realities of this age make it a no-brainer to have access to your records when your location can change day-to-day and it's completely impractical to lug around meaty record books with you."


Now, I do have to add the disclaimer that this is not an official statement and is not to be interpreted as a reflection of the Marine Corps' views; this was just a sibling asking another sibling for an experienced view of something that one of us — make that, both of us — feel is a pretty important topic.

It’s a different spin on the usual EMR/PHR talk featured in most healthcare IT publications, but it’s one that I think certainly warrants attention… maybe just a little more so for those of us with more of a vested interest in the care of Marines. As “the Major” would say, Semper Fi!

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Pete, thanks for your comment. I bet you have some great stories from your time with the Navy Medical Service Corps. I'm sure my brother would love to engage you on the "Navy Infantry in disguise" idea - I'll wisely stay out of that one!

I'm just glad that in the decade or so in which he has been a Marine, there hasn't been an emergency in which records needed to be quickly accessed. But I'd like to think that if he (or his doctor needed them), they'd be there.

Please let your brother know that The Marine Corps is really the Navy Infantry in disguise. Now that I got that out of the way, I served as a Navy Medical Service Corps Officer and Hospital Corpsman (Doc) with multiple tours with the Marines. We know all to well how difficult it is for the typical young Sailor or Marine to hold on to their Medical and Dental records when they transfer from one duty station to the next. Of course they only lose their records once, after undergoing the painful process of having to receive all their shots all over again.
What we may perceive as intrusive or technology challenging, is viewed by our young (Face Book generation) entry level military personnel as intuitive and "no brainer." But by far the biggest advantage that Military Medicine has over its civilian counterparts is that they can ORDER them to fill out their PHR and ORDER Doctors to use an Electronic Record.
Sigh!.....The good ol' days.

kate

Kate Huvane, Associate Editor of...