Saturday, January 28, 2012

I'm a Happy Electronic Patient

I was nervous as electronic records were being rolled out at Group Health Co-op in Puget Sound. I already had a "consumer number" and was wondering how depersonalized this was going to get.

Then I went on-line and joined MyGroupHealth which gave me my own secure web page. There was only a bit of a learning curve as I went to the computer to make an appointment with my GP. I was surprised to find his on-line schedule available and open at a time I wanted, so with a click I booked myself for that time slot - no scheduler, red tape, or call backs. I got a secure email reminder before the appointment asking me to fill out my history on line. Reminders were flagged that I hadn't had a tetanus shot in more than 10 years and I was due for lipid screening and colon cancer screening.

I learned that my medications could be refilled by checking a box on-line and they would be mailed to my home. The lab tests were posted and available for review as were all prior tests, X-Rays, and procedures. There's even an iPod app available for pharmacy and lab wait times as well as checking my medical record on the go.

One weekend I had a flare of my sinus disease with a 102 fever. A consulting nurse, available 24/7, reviewed my records as I talked with her by phone, and it was apparent which antibiotic seemed most appropriate to start without delay.

Then I lost one of the lenses in my glasses. Fortunately the recent results of my eye exam were available on-line so there was no delay in getting a replacement at Costco (we were out of town).

When going in for surgery, there was a complete record of my allergies, meds, prior surgeries, etc. There were no lost charts and no confusion about my case.

Also, on-line I can research the management of any illnesses I might have on the secure web site. This information has been vetted, thus more useful than scouring the many internet sites. Also, I can look at my life style risk factors and see where I need to focus on diet and exercise.

So I don't find this at all depersonalized. It puts me in the driver's seat and helps the docs focus on the sicker patients. Since they are salaried without the requirement for "face-time", they conduct many "virtual visits" in a very cost-effective way.

My advance directives including a Living Will, Values Statement and Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care are also stored in my electronic data base at Group Health and are available 24/7. So if and when there's a crisis I have a good chance that these important documents will be readily available.

Hopefully, medicine will continue to evolve using all the benefits of the electronic record. As an "electronic patient" I'm certainly a fan.

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