The use of an online portal at Presbyterian Medical Group in New Mexico, through which patients and their health care team can see and exchange information via computer, has increased by more than 20 percent in the past year.
The portal, called MyChart, is available to all Presbyterian Medical Group patients in New Mexico, including patients with a Presbyterian physician who use an insurance plan other than Presbyterian’s.
MyChart allows patients to see parts of their medical records from their home or laptop computers, tablets or smartphones, and to send notes to the doctor and his or her staff.
Using the portal in some cases saves the patient a trip to the doctor’s office, because it provides a method for the safe exchange of written confidential medical information, which, because of privacy laws, can’t be exchanged over email.
“It’s growing so much,” said Amanda Schoenberg, a spokesperson for Presbyterian. “Last year, about 50,000 people were signed up. Now, we’re at 85,000, and we’re hoping to have 100,000 by the end of the year.”
Presbyterian pediatrician Kevin Maben, 49, who sees about 50 patients a week at a pediatric clinic in Rio Rancho, said MyChart assisted the deaf parents of two patients in communicating with him away from the clinic, without outside help. “(Their mother) was able to interact with the nurse or me,” Maben said. “In the past, she had to use an attachment on the phone. Now she can communicate directly.”
MyChart has become a regular part of his practice. “It’s an integral piece of what I use in the office,” he said. He estimated that using it reduces in-person visits by between 10 percent and 20 percent.
Patients cannot see their entire electronic health records, but they can call up a care summary, as well as their diagnoses and prescribed medications. Parents can also see their children’s immunization records, Maben said.
All Presbyterian doctors can use it, and once patients have been in to see their health care provider, they can, too.
Usually, it’s not the doctor who has the first look at MyChart correspondence. Maben said his staff nurses look at the messages sent in from patients first, and handle what they can. Then they refer to him topics that only a doctor can address.
He gave an example of a case that came to his attention via the portal. “I had a patient earlier,” he said. “I’d seen her last week for a rash, and the rash wasn’t better. She described it (over MyChart). I changed the prescription based on her description.”
That kept her from having to come in personally for an exam and a new prescription. “I’ve had lots of feedback from patients that they really like it,” he said.
Claudette Mayer, 74, said she really likes it. A retired real estate broker who lives in Bernalillo, she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2006. She uses MyChart to communicate with her oncologist, her primary care physician and other specialists who practice through Presbyterian, but she cannot use it with doctors who aren’t connected to Presbyterian.
“If I have had a question about my health, I’ve gone in and messaged my doctor and got a response back on what I should do or not do,” Mayer said.
She doesn’t always have to go to MyChart looking for answers, because some answers, such as results from the 20 blood tests she’s had in the last year, come to her.
“If I had a test done in the morning, I get a notice (electronically)” she said. “I could get online and find out the results and not have to wait for someone to call me or mail the results.”
Afterward, if she doesn’t understand the results, she can send a message via MyChart and get a detailed answer. Although two days is generally the limit for a response, she’s gotten an answer back within an hour, she said.
“I can schedule appointments and I can pay a bill. I bet I use it at least once a week.”
Another convenience for her is the ability to log on wherever she goes. “I can use it on my iPad; I can travel, and I can do it wherever I’m at – from my kids’ house, in the airport if there’s a need for it. That’s the beauty of it.”