On the record

Your medical history, just a click away.

You’re on vacation and you feel a pain in your chest. At the local hospital, the doctors want to check your health history: Taking any medications? Any previous symptoms? But your records are in Boston. Oh, and it’s after business hours. “If you show up at a different healthcare system than the one you’re in, there are lots of problems,” says Dr. Isaac Kohane, chair of informatics at Children’s Hospital. So many, in fact, that electronic medical records (EMRs) have become one of today’s most pressing healthcare topics.

EMR programs, which make records available anytime, anywhere, to patients and doctors alike, are already in place at a few local hospitals, but they don’t yet talk to each other. “Major systems don’t want to share with other systems, for fear of losing patients and business,” says Paul Levy, president and CEO of Beth Israel Deaconess. That, however, is changing. In the past month the Massachusetts eHealth Collaborative, founded in 2004 to establish a statewide EMR system, began testing communitywide networks in North Adams. Partners HealthCare is expanding its Patient Gateway EMR system to more primary care doctors and specialists at its affiliates, including Mass General and Brigham and Women’s hospitals. And Kohane, who has codeveloped an EMR platform called Guardian Angel, organized a recent conference attended by insurers, government agencies, and Fortune 500 companies like Google, Microsoft, and Wal-Mart. “There’s a clear consensus that an EMR system is necessary and should increase safety,” Kohane says. It might even spare you an emergency trip back home.