The patient came into Indianapolis’ Wishard Memorial Hospital complaining of crushing chest pain, but was unable to give ER doctors his medical history. Based on his symptoms, my colleagues feared he was having heart trouble, possibly a heart attack. In these situations, ER physicians typically give patients blood thinners, as the medicine allows blood to restore the injured area of the heart. That didn’t happen in this case. And it’s a good thing.
Fortunately, the attending physicians were able to electronically access the man’s medical records instantaneously, informing them that the man with chest pain sought treatment from a nearby hospital just three weeks prior for a head injury. Giving the patient a blood thinner would have increased bleeding to his brain, forcing an unnecessary head surgery and an injury that could have killed him.
With the right information, doctors were able to prescribe the proper treatment for their patient. The chest pain turned out to be angina, not a heart attack.
Had that patient gone to almost any other ER in the nation he would have likely met a grim fate.