Holyoke Medical Center Patient Portal Provides Convenient Access
You can check your bank balance online. You can look for new car insurance online. You can buy an entire wardrobe or order takeout dinners online.
And, sometime in the next few months, you can check the results of medical tests you had at Holyoke Medical Center and request your next appointment online.
The medical center’s Information Systems and Technology Department has been working for almost a year to create the means by which patients can securely access their own medical information without traveling to the hospital to do so. It’s an exciting new service for patients as well as another way the hospital can provide top-notch care.
The Patient Portal, as it is called, is all about security, speed and ease of access.
“We want our patients to have a more active role in their care”, said Sue Sullivan, RN, Manager of Application Services. “It allows for better informed decisions about health care, and a better relationship between the hospital and the patient.”
Director of Health Information Management Laura Piquette, RHIA, CHPS, said many patients who come to the hospital for tests stop at the Medical Records Department so they can sign an authorization form that will allow the hospital to send them the results of that test.
“A lot of patients like to keep track. They like to compare results to previous results. The new Patient Portal just gives the patient another interactive way to be involved,” she said. Once the patient is in the hospital computer system, he or she will be able to get results online or check on any changes in medications that the doctor has ordered, Piquette said.
Piquette said the possibility of having a patient portal is not unknown to the patients who come into her office for information. “They know it’s out there, and they have been asking about it. We’ve been getting requests for over a year now,” she said.
When the HMC Patient Portal is launched for the community, the public will just need to have their email address on file at the hospital and know their medical record number to enroll. To prepare for the portal launch, the hospital staff has been asking patients for their email address during the registration process for months now. Patients can find out their medical record number by contacting the Medical Records Department at the hospital.
As a sort of dry run, Information Services set up a portal for the use of Holyoke Medical Center employees. The trial site, which went live on Feb. 1, works like the one that will be available to all hospital patients in the coming months.
The prototype site helped the Information Services staff understand how patients will use the site, what challenges or confusions that might arise, and which features may be most valuable.
Creation of the site has necessitated building in strong security measures. Todd McDermott, manager of Information Systems, said access must follow the federal privacy laws, known as Health Insurance Privacy and Accountability Act, and the state statutes that protect personal privacy.
Patient Portal users will be given an ID and a password, both of which they can change, once they enter the site. Patients also will answer a security question that will help if they forget their passwords.
Operating a secure computer system within the hospital was one thing; a system that involves the public is quite another, McDermott said. “There is a whole level of support inside the hospital. We are committed to providing that same level of security for everyone who uses our patient portal,” he said.
Tara Garstka, senior application analyst in Information Systems, said the portal will be very user-friendly. “You can request an appointment for physical therapy, for example. You request an appointment, enter your available dates and times. Then, once you are booked, you’ll get an email in your personal email account,” she said.
If there is new information about your medical care, such as a test result, you will receive an email to check the portal, Garstka said.
The patient can also update certain demographical information, such as a new address, telephone number, or email address. Once the patient puts that information into the portal, the hospital records will also be updated.
“This is really in its infancy,” Garstka said of using the Internet to communicate directly with patients. The capabilities of the site are likely to expand as time goes on. “As the Patient Portal gets more robust, we will be able to add new functionalities to the portal,” she said.
The plan is to make the site more interactive and user-friendly in order to continue to improve the flow of information for the patient and the hospital, Sullivan said.
The Holyoke Medical Center Patient Portal is definitely an idea whose time has come. Patients getting information and requesting appointments over the Internet is something that will become more and more common, Sullivan said. “Patients are going to be seeing more and more of this in physicians’ offices because they’re going to be required to do so,” she said.
This communication enhancement between patient, hospital, and doctor is the wave of the future and Holyoke Medical Center is again ahead of the curve.
The HMC Patient Portal is expected to be available to the public at the end of the summer and will be available on the Holyoke Medical Center website in the HMC Patient Portal & HealthConnect section.