Once Again Technology Fails

via Emergency Medicine Doc (catchy title) Once Again Technology Fails

The other day I saw a patient with abdominal pain.’ The patient had the pain for some time.’ They had a CT scan of the abdomen at an outpatient radiology facility the day before.’ I asked if she knew the result, and she said, ‘No, but can’t you just pull it up off of your computer?’ The answer of course was ‘No.’’

I see this all the time, as well. One of the consequences of this inability to share information is extra testing, repeating CT’s, etc.

It’s easy to blame HIPAA for this, and I will, but it’s also a true failure of imagination and effort.


  1. I was wondering about that type of thing. If the ER’s could share such info, then it would make it harder for a drug addict to bounce around hospitals for prescriptions.

    But, I guess with HIPPA, you’d have to get the patient’s consent to search previous records so that foils that plan.

  2. I had a nursing home VA patient I sent for a CT abdomen. When I didn’t get the report I found out that the VA required the patient to sign a release. Apparently the fact that I had ordered it didn’t matter.

    I’m not sure who to blame for this SNAFU, but I’m thinking the VA.

  3. Imagination and effort:
    The technology certainly exists for transfer of reports and images.
    A problem with outpatient facilities is that there isn’t going to be anyone there to answer the phone let alone give out information, HIPPA or no.

    Even with the age-old X-rays on film, one saw plenty of times when studies were repeated rather than to get films/reports from other facilities.

  4. In my community we can transfer images back and forth from clinic to hospital pretty easily, and it’s a hell of a good deal

  5. I hate HIPPA. It gets in the way all the time. I have a lot of zebras in the zoo and getting my doctors to where they can work with each other drives me insane. I spend hours everytime tests are done getting the releases to the proper doctors so they can spend hours getting the results they need to know. I know these laws are supposed to protect me, but I think they are putting me in more danger than if unwanted person “found out”.

  6. HIPAA is a bureacratic beast that is slowly going to strangle the American healthcare system to the point of collapse.

  7. HIPPAA just called and you’re going to have to shred your blog.

  8. As much as I agree that HIPAA is a pain, this one isn’t HIPAA’s fault. HIPAA permits sharing of information for purposes of treatment, no authorization needed. There are some kinds of “special” information which have special protection(drug and alcohol treatment records, for example), but those are protected by other laws. Anyone who claims HIPAA prevents sharing of information for treatment purposes is incorrect.

  9. IMHO, HIPAA is a problem (not THE problem, but a problem) because it is very complicated and technical, and it’s accompanied by fines of the ‘you cannot possibly afford it’ variety.

    What that leads to is people / facilities / institutions going overboard to avoid even the appearance of getting near the edges of the law just to stay off the radar.

  10. Many physicians find it quicker, simpler and easier to have an expensive test or a procedure repeated than to make efforts to get the reports of the same test done recently at another facility. The impact of HIPPA regulations in initiating and perpetuating such practices needs to be studied in order to make the processes more patient-friendly and economical.

  11. I agree with this.
    As a urologist one of the most frustrating things is when my patients that have known stones come in to the ED and get another CT Scan when they had one a few days before.