Benefits of Using Your Patient Portal App
In this segment, Rebecca Mishuris, MD, Associate Chief Medical Information Officer at Boston Medical Center, comes on the show to discuss how patients can benefit from using their patient portal with BMC.
Melanie Cole (Host): A patient portal is a secure online website that gives patients convenient 24 hour access to personal health information from anywhere with an Internet connection. Patients can view health information such as recent doctor visits, discharge summary, medications, and it can really help you to be your own best health advocate. My guest today is Dr. Rebecca Mishuris. She’s associate chief medical information officer at Boston Medical Center and an assistant professor at Boston University’s School of Medicine. Welcome to the show, Dr. Mishuris. Tell us about patient portals and how they sort of came to be developed.
Dr. Rebecca Mishuris, MD, MPH (Guest): Sure. So, patient portals are an easy online way for patients to access information about their health – whether it's their prescriptions, and they want a refill or a list of their problems that they recently discussed with their physician or to send a message to their physician with a question or a comment. They came about quite some time ago actually now, but really came into the general forefront pretty recently as a way for patients to be more engaged in their own healthcare and to really become their own advocate in their healthcare – a way for patients to take their health information into their own hands.
Melanie: So, how can patients benefit? I mentioned health advocacy, and you just said take their health into their own hands. How can knowing this information help them to be that advocate?
Dr. Mishuris: So, there actually are studies that have looked at that that have shown that patients who use a portal to access their healthcare have better relationships with their physicians, are more engaged in their own healthcare, and actually have better health outcomes for chronic diseases like diabetes and high blood pressure. They just by having access to a portal, patients are more likely to look at their medications, make sure they’re taking them correctly. They’re more likely to be aware of their health diagnoses and ask questions about them, look up information about those diagnoses, and also more likely to have better communication with their physician through the patient portal but also outside the patient portal.
Melanie: Sometimes, doctor, patients are concerned about talking about their health online. They’re willing to look up symptoms and things, but they don’t want to necessarily put their records online or information. What do you say to them?
Dr. Mishuris: So, I say that I understand their concern, but we do our utmost to keep this as secure as possible. People are willing to do their banking online and so if you're willing to do your banking online, I would think you’d be willing to talk about your health online as well. It is as secure online as it is within our hospital walls. So, all of your health information is on our computers within the electronic health record and that is the same security we have there is the security we have through the patient portal, and so while I understand the concern, it's actually not a concern that I have myself because I know all of the procedures and protections we have in place to secure their health online. The only people that have access to it are the patients themselves, anyone that they give access to it, and their physician.
Melanie: So do patient portals benefit providers as well, doctor? Can they benefit patient care and help the provider with their workflow?
Dr. Mishuris: Absolutely. So, from a provider perspective, patients who have a patient portal and use it are easier to communicate with because it can be done in a kind of easier, quicker format, and it's also easier to take care of those patients. We actually get more information from patients through the patient portal than we might through a phone call or a series of phone calls or a visit even because patients are able to give us information at the time that they have the information rather than waiting two weeks or two months for their next visit when they may have forgotten some symptom or a question that they had for their provider.
Melanie: So that brings up another point is that communication between patients and providers and what do you see as the benefit with that? I mean, are doctors willing to discuss, answer questions, really get involved with the patients or is this something else that adds to their work day?
Dr. Mishuris: So, this actually makes their work day easier (laughs). So, from a provider perspective, it’s actually easier for a patient to email me a question they might have or ask for a refill on their medication, or ask for an appointment through the patient portal than by calling our help desk, and it’s just – it’s an easier work flow. There aren’t as many middle people involved. So, when you call the help desk, you get someone at the help desk who then has to route it to the nurse, who has to route it to the physician. Here you're basically communicating directly with your physician, and there are certainly things where we still say, you know, you need to come in and been seen for this, but there are a lot of questions that we can answer without having a visit, and certainly it's easier from a patient perspective to just ask for a refill for their medications directly through the portal or ask for an appointment to see their physician.
Melanie: Most people today are fairly tech-savvy, but some aren’t. How hard are these portals to use?
Dr. Mishuris: They're actually incredibly easy. We’ve designed our portal to be as streamlined as possible so that even with just a little bit of understanding of how to move a mouse, you can figure out where you're going. It’s in language and reading level that our patients should be able to understand for the most part, and if you are having trouble, we have people that you can either call for help or come into the clinic and get help navigating the portal.
Melanie: So, generally speaking and to summarize, where do you see the world of health information electronics going in the coming years?
Dr. Mishuris: Oh goodness, in as many ways (laughs) as you can imagine, I think that, you know, basically everyone in the country now has an electronic health record, and our job is to harness that and to use that to provide the most effective and efficient healthcare that we can to improve outcomes for patients. I think from a patient perspective, patients are generating a lot data about themselves outside of healthcare, so they are calculating their steps on their pedometer; they're writing down everything that they eat, for instance, and having that information and knowing how to harness that information from a physician perspective it’s going to be really important in taking care of that patient. Patients spend 99% of their time outside of the healthcare arena, but they are always doing things in that arena that impact their healthcare and so knowing that information can actually help us take care of patients better and improve their outcomes, and so, I think that we’re going to see health information technology exploding from a perspective of provider and the patient in terms of the information we have and share and how we communicate through technology.
Melanie: And what about Boston Medical Center’s patient portal, what would you like the listeners to know about getting involved in this so that they can be their own best health advocate?
Dr. Mishuris: So, it's incredibly easy to sign up for an account at Boston Medical Center through MyChart. You can do it at a provider visit that you might have on campus. You can do it by calling our help desk and asking for an access code to sign up, and with doing that, you then have access to your medication list, to your problem list, to all of your upcoming appointments, to your allergies, to the names of your physicians and on and on, and I would encourage people to sign up and to get their friends to sign up. Parents can sign up for proxy access for their young children, and soon we will be able to have adolescents – so children from the age of 12 to 18 – sign up for their own accounts as well.
Melanie: Thank you so much, Dr. Mishuris, for being with us today. This is Boston Med Talks with Boston Medical Center. For more information, you can go to bmc.org. That's bmc.org. This is Melanie Cole. Thanks so much for listening.