An article about when time is of the essence
“…Thank you for your letter concerning the treatment of your mother in our Emergency Department (ED) after she fainted. It took so long as we were in trouble getting sufficient medical information about your mother. If we knew that there was a change in her medication most recently that explained her syncope and fall the whole process could have been much faster…” Time is of the essence…
Especially elderly people often are not capable of giving sufficient and reliable information about basic facts of their medical history like allergies or medication. Even worse, a lot of them cannot name their general practitioner (GP) that in case of an emergency could be contacted during office hours at least.
Also, relatives in most cases are not of great help and it takes extra resources to get in touch with them. A study* including 104 patients with at least 75ys of age showed that in a quarter of cases no complete basic medical history (allergies, medication, pre-existing illnesses, name of GP) could be obtained at all in the emergency setting.
Only 16 patients were able to provide all necessary information on their own. Contacting relatives or GPs prolonged the time until complete medical history was present to around 26 minutes (relatives) and 56 minutes (GP). However, this is not only a problem in the elderly as there are a lot of daily scenarios in the Emergency Department which also younger patients are not able to help out with important information concerning their health status on their own.
A digital solution could be of great help to close this gap of information in emergency care.