NORTH BAY – Kaiser Permanente patients in the North Bay can now carry their electronic health record with them and have it immediately available to any provider, anytime, thanks to a new device released last month.

Since the proliferation of digitized health records over the last decade, technology meant to reduce the risk of medical errors has faced one critical barrier to the success its creators envisioned: the inability to share information across medical facilities. But the new Kaiser technology sidesteps that obstacle, reducing the risk of inadvertent mistakes.

“If you are a healthy person, you don’t take medications, you have no allergies, you can generally receive emergency care with out incidence if they do not have your record available. But for people with a more extensive medical background – chronic disease, several medications, recent hospitalizations – that information becomes extremely valuable upon entering a health care facility where you do not have a history,” said Dr. Steve Hubbard, assistant physician-in-chief for information technology at Kaiser Permanente Santa Rosa Medical Center.

The Sonoma County and other North Bay Kaiser facilities became the second to unveil the device after an Oakland facility, which has now distributed more than 600 records. The information in contained on a protected flash drive that can be opened with a password. Patients can purchase the hardware for about $5. In cases where the user is unconscious, the device provides the physician with a number where he or she can obtain the record or the pass code.

The flash drives hold about one gigabyte of information including general background, age, gender, language preference, as well contact information for primary care physician, family and friends. The file also contains active medical problems, allergies, immunization records, past lab results, prescriptions, past diagnosis, hospitalization and recent EKGs and chest X-rays if relevant.

“The technology of flash drives and even floppies before that is nothing new, but with the advent of electronic records, the information is easy to retrieve and does not have to be individually inputted,” Dr. Hubbard said.

“I don’t think this device is the final answer to meeting the vision of electronic records by any means, but I do see it as a starting point.” He said the Kaiser flash drive is ideal for frequent travelers with complex medical histories. Records on the flash drive are updated when a patient visits their doctor or hospital.