Cover Story - Most Wired
A key focus not just of meaningful use, but also of health reform is creating more informed and engaged patients. Giving them access to their medical records is a big part of that.
However this is accomplished—whether it's a patient portal or some other technology—hospital officials need to view the issue in the larger context of their overall health IT strategy and, more specifically, adoption of an electronic health record, says Chantal Worzala, director of policy, American Hospital Association. There's a natural progression from adopting an EHR to populating a personal health record or patient portal.
At Atlantic Health in Morristown, N.J., the patient portal morphed from a strategy aimed at independent physicians who didn't have EHRs in their offices. The Most Wired hospital began offering the physician practices an EHR-lite product through RelayHealth, says Linda Reed, vice president and CIO. The health system then began expanding it to patients. To date, 26,000 patients are on the platform and can e-mail doctors, receive lab results and update medications, among other things.
Like most other Most Wired respondents, Atlantic Health doesn't provide the capability for patients to view their complete medical record online. Just 17 percent of Most Wired and 6 percent of all respondents have that function via the Web.
Patients at NorthShore University Health System, Evanston, Ill., have been able to do that via a portal for several years. For the last few months, they have also been able to download a summary in a password-protected PDF. Roughly 115,000 patients have signed up for the portal, says Tom Smith, CIO at NorthShore.
Ultimately, says Pamela McNutt, senior vice president and CIO of Methodist Health System in Dallas, patients will want control of their health records, which is why the hospital hopes to launch a pilot portal in early 2011.
"I don't believe our patients are going to want Methodist to own their PHR," she says. "I believe they will have a PHR and we will be one of many [organizations] that will populate it."
This article first appeared in the July 2010 issue of H&HN magazine.