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Marathon organizers turn to electronic health records

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marathon, Detroit, healthcareResearchers at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit are studying injury-related and other information gathered electronically from last year’s Detroit Free Press Marathon in preparation for this year’s race in October. The goal of the race’s organizers is to better position medical staff and other services that help runners along the 26.2-mile route. The experiment also serves as a petri dish for studying the value of electronic healthcare records (EHRs).

Henry Ford Hospital’s plan was twofold. First, they offered runners the opportunity to enter medical information prior to the race in order to expedite any treatment needed during the race. Medics also entered complaint, exam, treatment and disposition data on race day that the researchers hope to use to identify trends in injury patterns and, as such, improve the preparation for future mass participation events.

Michigan’s Medical Biodefense Network created the online forms that the runners filled out via the Web. All patient information was stored on a server, with patient confidentiality maintained by having records reflect the runners’ race bib numbers or unique identifiers generated by the software. During the marathon, medical providers received military-grade mobile laptop computers equipped with cellular data cards at first aid stations and at the main medical coordination center. Fourteen doctors and more than 60 health workers staffed last year’s marathon.

Marathon organizers estimated that about 100 runners were treated by doctors during the race and that six x-rays were done on site, according to CNN. An International Broadcasting Systems Web site, however, reported that a total of 220 medical incidents were treated at the event. Unfortunately, despite the extra effort to provide medical services for the marathoners, three runners died during the 2009 race. Such tragedies are not common despite the grueling nature of the competition.

EHRs have received a lot of attention over the past year thanks to the Obama administration’s commitment of $19 billion in stimulus funds to encourage hospitals and health care facilities to digitize patient data and make better use of information technology.

Image © ictor, via


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  1. 1. Merlin Elsner 7:31 pm 05/5/2010

    This article is factually inaccurate. The primary concern is the implication that MARATHON RUNNERS died during the race. All of those who passed away were participants in the HALF MARATHON.

    Mr. Greenemeier did not contact me (I’m one of the "organizers") or anyone else on staff. Medical Staff from the DMC provided care for the 2009 race, NOT HFH. Schedule an interview with the appropriate persons before public release.

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  2. 2. Jokunen 8:42 pm 05/5/2010

    I think the important question here is when people wake up and realize that marathon running is not a healthy activity. Those three deaths are just the tip of the iceberg. One should not need medical help nor die while moving. If they do, then the activity is misguided and ill-fitting.

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  3. 3. Merlin Elsner 11:53 pm 05/5/2010

    Again, it WASN’T "marathon running". The three runners who passed were running the half marathon. The others who needed attention from their participation have probably needed attention from something they did yet given their approximation to said medical help, probably just didn’t seek help. I would say that out of nearly 20,000 people, having a few people checked in for dehydration or high temps probably had a lower correlation than the unreported events away from the convenience of medical care in your exit path.

    "One should not need medical help nor die while moving."
    I guess that rules out any methods of transportation for you…as people tend to die or need medical help far more often from motorcycles/cars/trucks/planes than they do from running. To continue to use those either demonstrates hypocrisy in it’s worst form, or proves the point what is misguided is the attack on something healthy as if it were not.

    Humans have a finite amount of time, they are not immortal. Their time here on Earth can be shortened by choices they make. It’s all about risk management. But IF you manage to avoid all of the risk, have you ever really lived LIFE?

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