We Need To Help Families Coordinate Care In Emergencies

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May 6, 2020

The global pandemic is showing just how crucial it is to have a way to safely and privately share health info.

Ten years ago, when Leila Chambers' sister was diagnosed with Hodgkin Lymphoma, relaying accurate info to Chambers' parents, who didn't live nearby, was a challenge. So, more recently, when her sister got ovarian cancer, Chambers thought, there must be a better way to keep our family in the loop.

Family support is so crucial to patients facing a health crisis. A 2004 review of studies examined patient outcomes from 1948 to 2001 and found that adherence to follow-up care was significantly better in patients with family support. Here's the rub, though: Current privacy laws prohibit physicians from sharing health info with family members unless you've signed a specific release with a family member's name on it. And even then, they rarely have time to do long calls to explain care decisions to relatives. That means family members can get left in the dark.

In a moment like this—when health statuses can change so rapidly—and patients have to go into hospitals alone, the ability to share information from a doctor's visit has never been more vital. A recording app, like Medcorder, which safely and securely records and transcribes medical visits, can be a huge help. Best of all, once you've recorded and transcribed the conversation, that transcript belongs to you. That means you can share it with whoever needs to be kept in the loop—no HIPAA release required.  

For Chambers, two big benefits resulted from her sister using Medcorder. First, it kept her family up-to-date, no matter where they were. That was a big comfort, she says. But, the other benefit was that it helped her sister remember what she was supposed to be doing between visits.

"It can be difficult to take in all the information in a doctor visit, so my sister used the recordings to re-listen to the doctor's plan and advice," she says.

Dr. John Durant, a family practice physician in Dadeville, Alabama, says allowing recordings in his practice has cleared up a ton of follow-up calls, from both patients and their family members. Furthermore, he says what it really helps with is building a patient's social network, which is a crucial asset in a crisis. Often, Dr. Durant's patients have a nurse or a medical student among their family or close friends.

"If you take a picture of your blood work or your x-ray, it's like, maybe I don't understand it, but maybe my brother understands it, or my kid understands it," he says.

Those contacts can be a huge comfort—but only if you can easily share info with them.

We are in an unprecedented moment in healthcare, and technology is showing its power to improve care. As telehealth keeps patients safe at home while providers give care, apps like Medcorder can be invaluable at connecting families during a disconnected time, too. Physicians should recommend patients record their consults, so they can keep their care teams in the loop—especially if they've been isolated in a hospital. And patients, consider asking your doctor if they'll allow you to record, so that you can streamline getting information out to worried family and friends.

We'll get through this, but we're going to need each other—and technology.  

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