News | August 13, 2012

Beyond Office Hours: New App, Patient Portal, To Allow U-M Patients Mobile Access To Health Records offers self-service system for patients to view health history, renew prescriptions and message doctor’s offices around the clock

Need immunization records, medication refills or results from your latest blood test? Just check your smart phone.

University of Michigan patients will soon be able to skip calls to the doctor’s office for some of the most common questions regarding their health, with the Aug.15 launch of the patient portal

The new U-M Health System portal, along with its corresponding MyChart app for iPhones and Androids, offers patients electronic access to portions of their own health records. Dubbed the online banking of healthcare, the new system is expected to dramatically enhance communication between patients and providers.

“This allows patients to become more active participants in their care,” says Margaret Punch, M.D., associate medical director, Faculty Group Practice Ambulatory Care Services and associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology, U-M Medical School.

“Allowing secure, online access to health information is really just a reflection of everything else happening in society as consumers come to expect convenient access to most services. We know that patients want accurate and timely information.”

A long list of patients will especially benefit from the new self-service records system. People with asthma and other conditions requiring frequent prescription renewals can fill out online requests instantly. Parents may print out their child’s vaccination records the night before the first day of school.

Patients who are anxiously awaiting results of regular tests – such as those undergoing chemotherapy or fertility treatment – also don’t have to wait for office hours.

Punch notes that for families whose children have special needs and conditions requiring multiple doctor appointments, quick access to medical information is also crucial. Parents can gain proxy access to their child’s information, but there are restrictions based on Michigan laws and the child’s age.

“There are parents who carry notebooks with them so they can keep track of medications and dates, appointments and other information,” Punch says. “Now they may have all of those records at their fingertips. They could print it off a computer at 2 a.m. while out of state if they needed to.”

Patient services provided by the portal:

• Review and print out medications, immunizations, allergies and other medical history at any time of day from any location.
• Receive test results and doctor opinions online – no waiting for a phone call or letter. (Tests to determine potentially fatal or debilitating diseases would be delayed for online access for 14 days or longer to allow physicians time to speak with patients first)
• Review health education topics and discharge instructions provided by providers.
• Secure messaging with doctor’s office. No more phone tag.
• Request prescription renewals.
• Pay bills online.

Benefits to care providers:

• Convenient way to remind patients they are overdue for health maintenance like a vision exam, physical or other type of appointment.
• Easier billing process, with patients able to make online payments.
• Documented communications with patient.
• Potential use for research improving the ability to reach out to patients with certain conditions or medications.
• More options for communication with patients. Both quick and secure.

Source: University of Michigan