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Will Electronic Medical Record Come to Horse Racing?
2/10/2015

In medical practice throughout the United States electronic medical records (EMR) are the standard. Most all hospitals, nursing homes and private practice offices have automated their clinical information to better care for their patients. In addition to easy access, the EMR allows care givers to see all the patientís information simultaneously and search for reoccurring patterns. The patient or his/her legal proxy has access to them upon request.

It is amazing that only a few equine medical practices offer their clients the technology of EMR. Since the health care insurance reimbursement does not apply pressure for them to do so, it is somewhat understandable. In addition, the cost to transition from a paper record system to an electronic one is not cheap. So where is the incentive?

Yet, a quick review of the number of electronic medical records software opportunities for veterinarian medicine identified over 50 sites. Currently the supply is outpacing the demand. Soon the market will level and competition will force change at a cost-efficient rate.

Yet the value of having accessible equine medical records is obvious. As horses change trainers or move from one state to the next, transferring records is a task. In the claiming game the speed at which horse transfer ownership is beyond the capacity of most equine practitioners using paper records.

Trainers who receive new horses from other trainers have very little baseline clinical information on which to begin developing a training regime. New veterinarians to these equine athletes are disadvantages in developing a suitable treatment plan for their clientís horses. Oftentimes, starting from the beginning is the only option. How sad for the horseís health and the owners pocketbook. Can we do better?

The problem was reported in a Paulick Report article. Trainer Gary Contessa expressed succinctly the issue before the Grayson-Jockey Club Welfare and Safety Summit when he said, ďNobody wants you to know anything about the horse before you claim them. Understood. But the day you claim that horse, why canít you get that horseís vet records and know whatís been done to him? I get a horse who canít talk to me, canít communicate, canít tell me whatís hurting him, I donít even know whatís been done to him. Now heís in my barn and four weeks from now, Iíve got to get him to win.Ē

The solution currently offered is the equine passport system which is used in Europe. It provides a way for equine medical records to be transferred when the horseís ownership changes. Although the purpose of the European system is not improved clinical care, the system does offer a new level of care for horses. The real reason for the European regulation is to determine what drugs a horse may have in his system before slaughter when human consumption of horse meat is the goal. Clearly, not something the United States industry is inclined to embrace. In addition, it has a host of its own implementation problems.

Perhaps, the industry should embrace some form of electronic medical record or passport system model for the simple reason of improved care. As Bill Casners says in the same Paulick article, ďTo me, it is black and white and in the best interest of the horseís health and welfare, which is in the best interest of our industry.Ē Most horsemen agree. However, working out the details of an acceptable system may take some time.

It would seem that since the records belong to the owner, thatís a place to start. Perhaps horse ownership organizations, like the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association and their state affiliates could develop an agreement to transfer equine medical records whenever ownership or trainer changes occur. If some veterinarian practitioners are concerned that their practices could be judge as inappropriate by new owners, this may motivate them to improve their practices.

If we start the discussion, as Mr. Casners suggests by asking what is in the best interest of the horse, we may begin a fruitful dialogue. Perhaps fans should weight in more and be part of that dialogue.