Take charge of your health care | Editorial

It’s taken 18 months of researching and planning, but the Shared Care program is now available on the islands. And we think it’s a great thing.

Shared Care is a regional service based in Bellingham. It is operated through PeaceHealth, which operates St. Joseph’s Hospital and proposes building a hospital on San Juan Island. Because the San Juans are in the St. Joseph’s service area, PeaceHealth agreed to extend the program to us (the Orcas Island Fire Department worked with PeaceHealth to bring the program here).

Shared Care allows individuals to organize and store all of their health information in an in an online-accessible profile on a secure server. You can list allergies, drug interactions, hospitalizations, medications, surgeries, and health indicators such as blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugars.

The patient can make this information available to doctors, paramedics, pharmacies, and family members, or to no one at all. They are considered “patient-centered” online medical records, and it allows each person to manage his or her own health history. You can authorize others to see parts of the profile or the entire thing. The system also leaves “fingerprints” behind: patients are alerted when their information is viewed by an authorized user.

Most importantly, the program allows medical personnel to quickly call up information during an emergency. Individuals can access their plan on the Internet anywhere in the world. If you’re away from home — even in a foreign country — and you require immediate medical attention, emergency personnel can, with your authorization, look up your entire medical history quickly. You can print out a wallet-size summary of your information as well.

This service could speed proper medical care in an emergency. It would also relieve the burden from the patient or a family remember of having to remember key medical information, such as allergies and medications, during a crisis.

There are 100 slots available now; more can enroll later. Trained volunteers are available to help you sign up.

It is an entirely free and elective program, but the potential benefits are clear.

For more information about Shared Care, call 376-2331.

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