Monday Medical: Electronic medical records and your health
Editor’s note: This story is the second in a two-part series on UCHealth Yampa Valley Medical Center’s shift to Epic, the electronic medical record system used throughout UCHealth. Part 1 covered what electronic medical records are and how they help physicians in the delivery of health care; Part 2 covers benefits to patients and what patients can expect with the transition.
If you’ve ever struggled to remember the dates of your child’s vaccinations or of your own surgery, or have been frustrated by the lengthy paperwork each time you see a new doctor, take heart: with an improved electronic medical record, those inconveniences will be a thing of the past.
UCHealth Yampa Valley Medical Center has implemented a new electronic medical record system, or EMR, for its patients through Epic, the leading provider of EMRs in the nation.
The shift promises to result in a number of benefits for patients, which Mark Clark, vice president of application services for UCHealth, and Dr. Gary Breen, an internal medicine physician at UCHealth Yampa Valley Medical Center and physician champion for the transition, outline below.
Log in to one website, and you’ll quickly see your lab results, details on past doctors’ visits, current prescriptions and upcoming appointments. You can also schedule or cancel an appointment, request refills and email your physician.
Patients new to Epic are often pleasantly surprised to find the website is easy to use and intuitive.
“The current approach with every practice having its own portal is clunky,” Breen said. “This new system is contemporary.”
Even seniors have embraced the technological shift.
“Seniors especially have loved how they can interact with providers online,” Clark said. “They often feel they receive more attention.”
Other doctors’ offices that use Epic will already have access to your medical history, which means fewer forms to complete.
“Now, you’ll just need to verify information instead of filling it out each time,” Clark said.
Since other physicians using Epic will be able to see a patient’s prior lab work, imaging studies and other tests, there’s less of a chance that those studies will be accidentally duplicated.
Fewer tests can help patients save on costs, time and even unnecessary exposure to radiation.
Better patient care
With an easy-to-access EMR, patients are better able to see what’s going on with their health care, which makes them more informed and more engaged.
“When patients are more informed, they can ask more targeted questions versus feeling in the dark about their health care,” Clark said.
The system makes it easier for physicians to log notes, which frees up more time for talking to and caring for patients.
“We’re able to deliver better care to patients,” Breen said. “That’s the bottom line.”
A safe system
A lot of effort is put into making sure all EMRs are well protected, including hospital-sponsored attempts to break into the system and audits of how records are reviewed by staff.
“We spend a lot of time making sure records are very well protected,” Clark said. “There are so many layers of protection that people can sleep easy at night, knowing that we do all we can to protect their information.”
A smooth transition
Though patients will see extra staff helping through the transition, everything is business as usual.
“When patients come in, things probably won’t look that different to them,” Clark said.
All patients will receive instructions for accessing the portal, which is called My Health Connection. Patients who already have access through one of UCHealth’s other facilities will continue to use that same portal, but now YVMC’s information will be added.
Overall, the new EMR system will make it easier for patients to take an even more active role in their health.
“Patients will be more engaged in their health care because they can see what’s going on,” Clark said. “And that makes for healthier patients.”
Susan Cunningham writes for UCHealth Yampa Valley Medical Center. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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