System bids to solve problem of patient medical data

ONE-IN-FOUR people over the age of 50 arrive in accident and emergency departments with insufficient knowledge of their medical condition and medication, an A&E consultant warned yesterday.

And new research reveals that less than 20% of patients over the age of 50 have a family member or carer who is proactively involved with their health.

Four out of five GPs agree that a system enabling prompt sharing of information between doctors and the emergency services would lead to improved patient outcomes, according to the research.

By keeping vital information in a safe place, known to emergency medical services, the Pfizer PIP (Personal Information Pack) aims to solve the problem of providing timely patient information.

The Pfizer PIP, launched nationally yesterday by the Minister for Health, Mary Harney, has been operated on a pilot basis in the Cork region. It is now available to the public through pharmacies throughout the country.

A&E consultant at Cork University Hospital, Stephen Cusack, Cusack said the Pfizer PIP was of huge benefit to doctors who could not rely on family or a patient’s GP, who may not be available, to deliver the information quickly.

The survey of 100 GPs, launched by Pfizer yesterday to coincide with Positive Ageing Week 2007, found that 46% of their patients were over the age of 50, with 28% over the age of 60.

On average, about 80% of patients over the age of 50 visited their GP three or more times a year. About 40% are suffering from at least one chronic illness and 43% are on multiple medications.

The research found that about 16% of patients aged 50-plus required emergency treatment in the last 12 months.

Chief executive of the Irish Pharmaceutical Union, Michael Guckian, said pharmacists were in a unique position to encourage the use of the Pfizer PIP with 83 million visits made to pharmacies every year.

The Pfizer PIP, costing €2, is a plastic container that is used to include details of a person’s medical history, conditions, doctors, family and medicines. A key ring is also included.

Emergency workers have been trained to recognise the accompanying notice that is placed inside the frame of the hall door signalling that a Pfizer PIP is contained in the fridge — a common location that is also most likely to survive accidents such as fire and flooding.

The PIP has been endorsed by the Health Service Executive, the emergency services and the gardaí. It is also supported by Age Action Ireland and Muintir na Tire.

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