UIHC medical records now online

BY KATIE HEINE | JUNE 13, 2011 7:20 AM

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The University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics has officially deemed online medical record keeping to be safe.

Despite security concerns, the UIHC has joined medical centers across the nation by providing patients with instant access to their electronic medical records online through a program called MyChart.

UIHC began rolling out MyChart to its patients clinic by clinic in July 2010. Similar to online banking, clients log on to MyChart employing a username and password after receiving an activation code from the hospital, said Lee Carmen, the UIHC associate vice president for Information Services.

And now it’s available to everyone.

After logging in with a username and password, patients can access personal health records, schedule or change appointments, and communicate with medical professionals via a messaging platform similar to e-mail — an opportunity doctors deem important.

“I think giving patients an opportunity to have access to their medical records just educates them more on their own health,” said Thomas Scholz, the interim physician-in-chief of the UI Children’s Hospital.

The program can ensure accuracy, he said, by giving clients an opportunity to double check their doctors.

Digitizing medical records is a growing trend, said Marc Olsen, a family practitioner who has served as a physician champion for the implementation of the EPIC product at Aurora Advanced Health Care in Milwaukee.

And while Olsen said the industry is getting a “strong push” from the government, he couldn’t imagine going back to paper records. He agreed with UIHC officials that online record keeping is safe for patients.

Digitizing saves time and money, and it satisfies patient, he said.

“Patients see [MyChart] as enabling to them, to take care of themselves and be involved with their health care,” Olsen said.

MyChart is a module of EPIC, Carmen said. The program was implemented at the UIHC in late 2006, costing the hospital roughly $60 million.

But some UIHC medical professionals were hesitant about unveiling the instant service to the public, he said.

“There was some anxiety by some of our physicians,” he said. “There were concerns with sharing complex medical information with patients who many not be knowledgeable to understand all of the information.”

Some medical professionals were initially uneasy about releasing medical information because the “medical jargon” can be scary to patients who aren’t used to the language, said Douglas Van Daele, the UI Health Care chief medical information officer.

But, officials said, that has hardly been the case as 25,000 MyChart accounts had been activated since the end of May. The program has also expanded as an app for iPhones, iPads, and iPod Touches.

In the next year, officials plan to implement a “personal health record,” allowing patients to track their health records related to medical issues such as diabetes, asthma, and cancer, Carmen said.
And while he said no system is “bulletproof,” he ensured UIHC has taken all necessary steps to ensure its security.

“We certainly completed an extensive security analysis to confirm the technology was secure and safe,” Carmen said. “And we believe it to be the case.”

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