Electronic records just got a lot better
When Cape Cod Healthcare switched over to the Epic Digital Medical Record system on Nov. 1, 2020, one of the biggest advantages for patients was the MyChart feature. MyChart is a patient portal that stores all of your medical information in one convenient place. Ultimately it puts more control in the patient’s hands.
“As an electronic medical record, Epic is designed around the needs of the patient,” said Kumara Sidhartha, MD, MPH medical director for the Physician Hospital Organization at Cape Cod Healthcare. “However, this MyChart feature is like icing on the cake. It takes it to a higher level of being patient-centered. It’s all about patient convenience and giving control and choices to patients.”
Journey of Care Summary
One of the most important features is “Happy Together.” It gives a single view summary of the journey of care, even if it has been received in multiple healthcare organizations either on the Cape or even in a different state. The Epic electronic health record (EHR) is one of the most widely used software in the country. More than 250 million patients have current electronic records in Epic, according to their website. That means residents and visitors to the Cape will have all of their health records in one place, regardless of where they get treatment, if the participating healthcare organization also uses Epic.
For example, let’s say a Cape Cod Healthcare patient is spending the winter in Florida and has a health crisis like a fall that results in an emergency department visit. If the Florida hospital has Epic EHR, the care the patient receives there will be included in their records on the Cape. Additionally, the patient’s primary care doctor on the Cape will be notified.
“That removes any potential blind spots for the next care team so we know exactly what happened earlier,” Dr. Sidhartha said. “Then the follow-up care becomes more efficient and safer. If you are getting treatment in different systems and different healthcare organizations, and even different states, this helps to ensure all relevant details are pulled together in one place,”
That is a big difference from the way things have been up until now. One of the mandates of the Affordable Care Act was that all doctors’ offices and hospitals had to create electronic health records for each patient. Unfortunately, one of the flaws of the mandate was that there was no one recommendation for software. That meant that doctors’ offices and hospitals all used different digital medical records and those records didn’t communicate between each other.
Epic changes that. “Care Everywhere” is an Epic program similar to Happy Together. It allows for sharing between healthcare teams at different organizations, if the patient gives permission. That makes the care safer for the patient because all the doctors on the various care teams have all the same information about conditions, medications, allergies, test results and treatments. Even if a patient has an independent doctor who is not part of Cape Cod Healthcare, they can generate a share code in MyChart that allows that doctor temporary access to the medical records in any web browser.
“If somebody has a particular health condition that is complex and high risk, there is the plan of care that is put in place so that everybody on the care team, including the patient and caretaker, all know what they should be doing to maintain the health around that condition,” Dr. Sidhartha said. “Then if the condition does get worse, they know the steps they need to take to nip it in the bud.”
One example of the convenience of MyChart is patients can make primary care appointments through their patient portal. Self-scheduling is available with select providers with more to be added over the next several months. Also, if a patient has an upcoming appointment with a Cape Cod Healthcare provider but would like to be seen earlier, there is a simple option to be added to a wait list for cancellations.
When patients set up appointments, they can also set up a symptom checker feature which allows them to enter their symptoms. Those symptoms are tracked by the clinical team, which allows them to triage and let the patient know what they should do next, whether it be get some labs done or be seen earlier rather than later.
Another patient-friendly feature of MyChart is a built-in video program so there is no need to use a third-party company for telehealth appointments. That makes the process seamless, efficient and convenient.
MyChart also lets patients see their test result quicker and reminds patients when it’s time to schedule preventive care such as mammograms. Patients can choose how they want to receive information – either by email, text or a phone call.
Other nice features include being able to connect your portal to health tracking devices like Fitbit or Apple watch to share information. It also has an advanced planning feature, which includes a healthcare proxy document, advanced directive and a living will.
“It makes the care a more comprehensive care,” Dr. Sidhartha said. “All the information is pulled together in one place for it to be viewed as a longitudinal record to look at the entire journey because having a piecemeal view here and there doesn’t tell the full picture. This allows everyone, including the patient, to understand the full story.”
The MyChart portal also allows patients to decide who they want to share their records with, including spouses or adult children who are part of the caregiver team. But even though the patient can choose who to share information with, patients can also have peace of mind about security. MyChart has a strong safety system set up with two-factor identification.
It even helps patients understand billing. Rather than getting bills from many different providers, MyChart lists them all in one easy to access place. This allows patients to keep track of what they owe, pay online or set up a payment plan if necessary. They can even access their insurance coverage so they know what claims have been made and what coverage they have.
“Ultimately what all of this does is it makes the patient an informed participant in the care,” Dr. Sidhartha said. “We all know that an informed patient is an empowered patient. And an empowered patient is a powerful partner in the care continuum.”