Online Health Records for Patients Will Still Require Oversight

by Jan Cottingham  on Monday, Apr. 8, 2013 12:00 am  

(Photo by Accenture)

For at least five years, a number of doctors’ offices and hospitals in Arkansas have offered on their websites a “patient portal.” A patient whose primary care doctor is with Little Rock Family Practice Clinic, for example, and his sleep doctor with UAMS can visit their websites and create online accounts through their patient portals. Most portals allow patients to make appointments, view test results, request refills or pay bills.

Health care providers join IT professionals in stressing the importance of patients taking responsibility for the accuracy of their personal health records.

“The PHR is a tool that you can use to collect, track and share past and current information about your health or the health of someone in your care,” AHIMA says. This information can save a patient money and time if, for example, it prevents an unnecessary repeat of a medical test. The information can save a patient unpleasant side effects or worse if, for example, it alerts a doctor or hospital to a potentially dangerous drug interaction.

Some of the most comprehensive and interactive PHRs are being provided by health insurers. Health Advantage, a subsidiary of Arkansas Blue Cross & Blue Shield, has a patient, or “member,” portal on its website. The patient can log on to view his PHR, which includes the option of adding or editing PHR information — a list of allergies, for example. And he can choose whether to allow providers access to his record.

“The response has been great,” said ABCBS spokesman Max Greenwood. “Members love having the ability to see the information in terms they can understand.”

As AHIMA notes, patients are ultimately responsible for decisions about their health. Their use of PHRs can help improve care.

Expert Advice On Creating a PHR

Dr. Roxane Townsend, UAMS: Anytime you’re seen outside your primary care practice, ask for those records to be sent to your primary care doctor so he or she can have the most complete record.

Julie Wolter, member of the American Health Information Management Association and an associate professor of health sciences at Saint Louis University: Seek copies of your health records from anyone who provides you health care. You always have the right to see your records. When visiting a doctor, write down questions ahead of time, bring a notepad and take notes. “Patient portals are great, but I always tell people to start where they’re comfortable.”

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