A new patient portal called MyChart enables patients to review their health records, request refills of medications and contact their health providers using computers, tablets or smartphones with an Internet connection. (Photo by Gretchen Baugh)
MOBILE MEDICINE Online patient portal takes health care everywhere
All ECU Physicians clinics are now offering patients access to their own electronic health records through a secure online patient portal called MyChart.
Once enrolled, patients can use any computer, tablet or smartphone with Internet access to securely view their test results or appointment notes, send non-urgent messages to their health care providers, request medication refills or appointments and review their active problem or medication list.
“MyChart allows patients to stay connected to their providers and to get better control of their own health,” said Dr. Tommy Ellis, chief medical information officer for ECU Physicians. “It’s a safe, easy, convenient way for patients and their families to keep tabs on all aspects of their health care. Everything’s all in one place, up-to-date and at their fingertips all the time, no matter where they are.”
Ellis said MyChart’s rollout is already contributing to better health outcomes for ECU Physicians patients, because patients who are actively involved in their own health care are more likely to comply with their doctors’ recommendations.
“When a patient can easily communicate personal health information and questions to their provider, it also helps the health care team diagnose them more accurately and develop the best care plan possible for that patient,” he said.
Ellis noted that the patient portal can also help patients avoid unnecessary or duplicate tests, procedures or immunizations when patients seek care from multiple providers.
A proxy option enables family members to monitor health information for their children or aging parents.
Retired ECU employee and ECU Physicians patient Kim Blanton has been using MyChart since its inception. Her favorite feature is the ability to track her lab results, especially while traveling.
“I can use the MyChart mobile application to monitor my lab results on my phone while I’m sitting at the soccer field,” she said. “The trends I see empower me to take control of my health. For example, I may decide to pack a lunch the next time I’m on the road in order to better control my sodium intake.”
Blanton said she uses MyChart to record questions she wants to ask her doctor at her next appointment – and to eliminate the stack of appointment cards she once had to keep up with.
“Now I can see all my appointments in MyChart,” she said. “And it allows me to specify for my health care team which days and times are most convenient for me to schedule future appointments, as well as how I prefer to receive notifications – by mail, phone or email.”
These personalized features, Blanton said, translate into fewer missed appointments for patients.
MyChart’s searchable database is another feature Blanton uses. “It’s better than just Google-ing a condition, because the MyChart database is endorsed by the same physicians who treat me,” she said. “And everything is in layman’s terms – in simple, everyday, eastern North Carolina language. It’s suited to our region, with individual and cultural sensitivities built in.”
Dr. John Stockstill, a professor in ECU’s School of Dental Medicine, said MyChart “takes the guesswork out of being a patient.
“It keeps the uncertainties from piling up,” he said. “I can log into my medical record anytime and review what my doctor has said regarding me, how I should be taking my medications, what my medicines are supposed to be doing, when my appointments are, what my lab results are, what procedures or tests my doctor has recommended for me to stay healthy.”
Stockstill said he especially values the quick response he gets from his medical providers when he submits requests or questions through MyChart – typically less than 48 hours.
“MyChart is very patient-friendly,” he said, “but it’s not generic. It’s very personal and individual.”
More than 9,000 patients have signed up for MyChart since the first ECU Physicians clinic offered the online patient portal early in 2014.
Anyone whose health care has been provided by ECU Physicians, a Vidant Health hospital or a participating clinic of Vidant Medical Group is eligible for a free MyChart account. Patients can sign up with the help of a health care team member during their next appointment, or they can obtain an activation code from their health care team and enroll at a later time.
MyChart’s mobile application is available for Apple and Android smartphones. For more information visit www.ecu.edu/MyChart.