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Pneumatic tubes used to transport patient records
Medical Records at Mayo

Hard as it is to believe today, a single concept developed by Dr. Henry Plummer at the beginning of the 20th century changed the face of medicine.

The concept was a centralized medical record, stored in a single repository, and capable of traveling with the patient. It meant that doctors had all the facts they needed about each patient to provide the best possible care. It also made those records available to medical researchers. In fact, Mayo's medical records are among the most comprehensive in the world, providing the depth necessary to enable vast medical studies.

On July 1, 1907, Dr. Henry Plummer and Mabel Root, Dr. Plummer's assistant, inaugurated Mayo's system of patient registration and medical record keeping. The single-unit record was central to the new system. It brought together all of a patient's records -- clinical visits, hospital stays, laboratory tests and notes -- in a single file that traveled with the patient and was stored in a central repository. This simple system quickly became the standard for medical record keeping around the world.

The new record keeping system replaced a ledger system that was intolerably inefficient. On an initial visit by a patient, a record was entered in a ledger book. On subsequent visits, doctors had to locate the original record and update it. When the ledger page filled up, entries were added in the margin. Worse still, multiple ledger books were maintained in different medical offices and departments. A single patient record could be in any ledger book.

Mayo Clinic built a system of conveyers and pneumatic tubes to transport patient records and correspondence throughout the clinic, an idea Dr. Plummer picked up while investigating how factories and businesses managed information. Dr. Plummer's concept of a highly organized patient medical record was designed to support excellent patient care and quality clinical research. It remains the basis for Mayo Clinic patient records, although the paper system has evolved into a highly computerized electronic medical record.

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Mabel Root
Mabel Root
Medical records
Medical records

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