Julie Sneider
The View From Here

Innovation won’t wait for health reform

By - Nov 15th, 2010 04:00 am

Photo by Kenneth Moyle via Flickr

For Jerry Theis, health care reform can’t move fast enough. So he’s taking matters into his own hands.

A licensed clinical social worker by training, Theis is an innovator, an entrepreneur and the founder of Greendale-based Theis & Associates,LLC. Early in his career, Theis worked in a hospital emergency room, where he witnessed many cases in which patients in medical crisis couldn’t communicate their vital health information to the EMTs or hospital personnel.

Those particular health care providers may not have immediate access to a person’s medical records to look up serious pre-existing conditions or life-threatening allergies to medications. If a patient in crisis can’t share information like that with an EMT, it can lead to serious health complications later on.

“It’s estimated that 60 to 70 percent of adverse events in health care occur because of poor communication and lack of medical information,” Theis explains. Such situations can be worse for patients with disabilities or other special needs.

Photo by Mike Webkist via Flickr

For Theis, the final straw came two years ago when he read about Esmin Green, a 49-year-old Brooklyn woman who died after collapsing in the waiting room of Kings County Hospital Center’s psychiatric ward. Green, who suffered from chronic paranoid schizophrenia and had been brought to the emergency room because of “agitation,” died of blood clots in her leg after she had been waiting for medical attention for more than 24 hours. A security video camera showed hospital personnel ignoring her even after she collapsed to the floor.

More than likely, Green’s psychiatric illness prevented her from being able to tell hospital personnel what was wrong and why she needed care.

“That story got me all riled up,” he says. “As a patient and consumer advocate, I felt I had to do something.”

So, Theis & Associates developed “My Crisis Records,” a product and service that lets consumers to take control of their personal health crisis record — either online or stored in a portable USB. Patients can go to www.MyCrisisRecords.com and fill out their emergency health information. The patient carries a medical emergency card with a password and I.D. number that gives access to his or her medical data, which can be accessed by any computer in any hospital.

Patients can also buy the My Crisis Capsule, a portable, password-protected USB device that contains their health data and can be carried in a purse or worn on a chain around the neck. The data includes medical history, conditions, treatments, allergies, immunizations and emergency contact information. The concept of electronic medical records is evolving, but not fast enough for Theis.

Lee Van Dehy

These days, he wants to take the product a step further by coming out with an application for iPhone users. He recently teamed with Lee Van Dehy, a software engineer and graduate of the Milwaukee School of Engineering, to develop the software for the project. Van Dehy, 22, says he worked in hospitals during his college days and, like Theis, has the entrepreneurial passio for using his education and technological skills to improve quality of life for the community.

The iPhone app would allow patients calling 9-1-1 to transmit vital medical information directly from their phone to the emergency dispatcher, who can forward the patient’s health record to the EMTs even before they arrive.

“It would be an incredible feat to get that kind of information to the EMT before they reach the patient so that [the EMT] can do a vital needs assessment.”

Van Dehy and Theis hope the App project will be finished by February 2011.

Theis sees the American health care system as broken and the future of health reform legislation as uncertain. He knows he alone can’t control those things. But as an entrepreneur, he can offer one solution that allows patients to help themselves in a medical emergency.

“I’m a consumer advocate,” he says. “I’m excited about this App because it will help empower the consumer.”

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