Even After Death, HealthlinkNY's Health Information Exchange (HIE) Helps to Fill In the Gaps for This Chenango County Deputy Medical Examiner

While HealthlinkNY’s HIE can help providers see their patients’ complete health record during life, it has proven to be an instrumental tool even after death for Chenango County Deputy Medical Examiner Brian Renfrow. After all he says “There is no such thing as too much information in this field!”
With 30 years of experience as a physicians assistant in emergency medicine, Brian Renfrow has spent the last year and a half as a Deputy Medical Examiner for the Chenango County Medical Examiner’s Office. Brian’s main duty is to determine the cause and manner of death for all unexpected, suspicious, or violent deaths in Chenango County. While serving a rural county such as Chenango, Brian noted “…we don’t have a large budget, an office, support staff, or a lot of resources. That’s why technology such as [HealthlinkNY’s] HIE is exceptionally useful to us…”
How HealthlinkNY’s HIE Saves Valuable Time and Pieces Together the Puzzle
When caring for live patients, HealthlinkNY, coupled with the patient recalling their own medical information, can make filling in the gaps of their medical history very easy and efficient. However, since Brian is dealing with the deceased, it is much harder to get the medical history of a deceased person. That is where HealthlinkNY comes in and provides a treasure trove of information in a matter of seconds.
Before utilizing HealthlinkNY’s HIE, Brian’s only source of medical information on the decedent was from family members, evidence at the scene, or reaching out to the decedent’s medical providers. Brian mentioned that since many of the deaths he investigates do not occur during business hours, there are often delays in conducting his investigation. All this information now can be gathered in minutes via HealthlinkNY’s Web Portal.
Brian mentioned that past medical history, current issues, and medications (all of which can be found in HealthlinkNY’s Web Portal) are some of the pieces of information he finds most valuable when determining the cause of death. However, this can be difficult to obtain from family members or in cases when the decedent lived alone. “… [it] may require significant investigative time” but with HealthlinkNY’s Web Portal, Brian said that all that information can “… be gathered in minutes, compared with hours or days tracking down providers and records.”
Brian also recalled a situation where HealthlinkNY’s HIE proved to be an asset in an investigation. He told of a case where a man had unexpectedly passed away at home and upon arriving at the scene, friends mentioned they believed the cause of death was a brain tumor. After review of the information found in HealthlinkNY’s Web Portal, Brian discovered there was no brain tumor at all as this was verified through a recent imaging result found in the Web Portal. “…the availability of the medical history prior to the autopsy helped both myself and the forensic pathologist expedite the process and determine an accurate cause of death more expediently and efficiently” Brian remarked.
While we all think of the immense benefits of HealthlinkNY’s HIE for the living, we may overlook the value it provides after death, and for this Chenango County Deputy Medical Examiner it can make all the difference.