Paperwork is the worst. For years, people have filed, sorted, misplaced, spilled coffee on, and generally mishandled important documentation.
Today, when it comes to vital information like your medical records, there is a better way. Technology has made it possible for patients and physicians to access this important health data much more easily with greater confidence in its accuracy.
“Electronic medical records or EMR, such as MyUHealthChart, empower patients to actively engage in their health care,” says Dr. Robert Schwartz, who specializes in family medicine at the University of Miami Health System. He points out that traditional paper records do not give patients easy access to their health information. MyUHealthChart removes that barrier while benefiting patients in other important ways.
How it works
The MyUHealthChart patient portal acts as a door to your medical chart, allowing fast access to most of your current UHealth medical information, with occasional exceptions. A biopsy report, for example, is something your doctor would discuss with you in person. However, you can readily review your annual physical exam, accompanying blood work, follow-up appointment information, and other types of your medical data online.
Easy access is one thing, but understanding lab results is another. “On the portal, patients can message their doctor to request a phone call or email explanation of their test results,” Dr. Schwartz says.
Before electronic systems, you could wait days or weeks to receive your records. UHealth guidelines request that doctors enter information within 24 hours of seeing a patient. While availability varies depending on when your doctor enters the information, in most instances, the timeframe is significantly shorter than waiting for paper records to arrive by mail. One caveat: lab and imaging test results done within the Health System are available faster than those done outside of UHealth.
This efficiency extends to pharmacies, too. “Almost all pharmacies are connected to EMR. Doctors no longer call in prescriptions and refills. We enter the prescription order directly into the patient’s electronic chart,” Dr. Schwartz explains.
The pharmacy example highlights a major EMR advantage: reducing medical errors. Electronic charts demand a higher level of accuracy in prescribing. Drug interactions, dose, quantity, and refill information is captured and visible to every member of the patient’s health care team, not just the prescribing doctor. “Every UHealth provider is interconnected through this system. For instance, if one of my patients is seeing an oncologist, I can look at that doctor’s notes,” says Dr. Schwartz. This helps Dr. Schwartz determine how a medication he prescribes might interact with the patient’s cancer treatments, for example. By eliminating information silos, MyUHealthChart helps coordinate patient care.
In the future, Dr. Schwartz thinks EMR will reduce health care costs. “While costs vary greatly depend on how doctors interact with patients, new protocols should drive down costs. If a patient complains of stomach pain and a doctor orders an MRI, system prompts will ask the doctor if they have done certain tests before ordering a more advanced diagnostic test. Checks and balances are built into these systems,” Dr. Schwartz says.
If MyUHealthChart gives you and your doctor access to medical records at the click of a mouse and on mobile devices, how is your privacy protected? According to Dr. Schwartz, MyUHealthChart, and UHealth’s Epic EMR system incorporate multiple security “layers” based on Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) requirements.
“There’s a significant log-in protocol, including passwords and identity cross-checks. The system tracks all users. Reviewing notes from your other doctors helps us provide better care, but multiple safeguards are built into psychiatry records, for example. Doctors must include their identity and reason for reviewing these records. They can be fired immediately if they look at records improperly,” says Dr. Schwartz.
On the patient-user side, if you contact your doctor through MyUHealthChart, your communications are private and protected. Contacting your doctor through your personal email account does not protect your privacy.
Improving the patient experience
If you’ve ever wondered why a nurse, medical resident, and doctor ask the same questions you just answered on your new patient forms, think of an airplane pilot. “Each time a pilot enters the cockpit, they review a safety checklist. Medical care is similar to airline safety. It can frustrate patients, but redundancy improves accuracy,” Dr. Schwartz says. He encourages patients to take ownership of their chart, reviewing it and pointing out inaccuracies to their doctor.
With so much on-screen information, will the personal side of the doctor-patient relationship suffer? “These systems are a work in progress. In the future, there may be less typing and more visual and voice recognition controls that encourage more direct doctor-patient interaction,” says Dr. Schwartz. He is already doing his part to engage patients in the process. As if to underscore his earlier point that MyUHealthChart empowers patients, he says, “I turn the computer screen toward the patient, saying, ‘This is your chart. Let’s look at it together.’”
Click here to register for MyUHealthChart or to download the free mobile app.
Nancy Moreland is a contributing writer for the UMiami Health News Blog. She has written for several major health care systems and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Her writing also appears in the Chicago Tribune.