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Portable health record created for US Border Patrol. Can it work for everyone else?

Portable health record created for US Border Patrol. Can it work for everyone else?

When officials with the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency recently discussed their new portable health records system used for migrants it raised an interesting question.

More or less, it was, “Huh?”

People seeking asylum in the United States, being people, deserve access to the same health care systems as anyone else. Portable health records make care efficient, equitable and safer.

Congratulations, then to Border Protection and its private contractors for taking portable health records from a suggestion to operation in two years, according to the trade publication Nextgov. That is an afternoon in Silicon Valley time.

The health record app, which records a person’s vitals, is “fully implemented,” the article states. Presumably, it was a fair bit less expensive than similar projects cost in the private sector. Or even elsewhere in America’s public sector.

The project began when Rep. Lauren Underwood (D-Ill.), reportedly saw CBP workers in 2019 writing medical records on paper and asked why something so inefficient was being done.

Developers ultimately added the software into the Border Patrol’s Web Emergency Operations Center app.

But why, then, cannot the same function be given to every other person in the United States?

Clearly, there are aspects of Border Protection’s operating environment that are different than the health care industry’s.

For example, there is the acute humanitarian need of migrants (that most but not all Americans want addressed). There is the political need to process applicants efficiently and humanely. There is the government’s desire to have just one all-encompassing view of each migrant.

And there are more factors that fell in the agency’s favor, but they are fewer in number than the reasons and excuses why every American does not have at least the seed of a digital portable health record.

A February vendor report made the case that almost 40 years after the world’s first electronic health record, digital identity management remains under-valued and mostly overlooked within the health care sector itself.

The paper, published by patient digital ID management firm Verato, indicates almost three-quarters of respondents to a survey said they are concerned or extremely concerned that misses with personal data are hurting the quality of care and bottom line.

Maybe they could look at Border Protection’s rapid turn-around on a comparatively light bit of code as a pilot and figure out how they might finally get their own portable health record app on phones.

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