The health care records of Oregon’s 14,600 inmates choke prison infirmaries across the state, and the files of at least 40,000 former prisoners crowd nearly a mile of shelf space in a Salem warehouse, reports the Oregonian. This paper colossus potentially obstructs delivery of care, poses greater risks of medical errors and sometimes leaves the whereabouts of medical charts unknown for as long as a day. With files spread across 14 prisons, it’s also impossible for officials to search for trends that might improve inmate health.
Prison officials plan to pitch a $3 million plan to the governor’s office to digitalize the records. As it is, a single chart that is kept by hand includes an inmate’s medical, dental, mental health and pharmaceutical records. Prison health care officials described the recordkeeping as antiquated, with hard-to-decipher files that occasionally shed pages. Patients are sometimes turned away because their charts are missing. Copying the files can be difficult, making them hard to share with medical professionals outside the razor wire.