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Galway Clinic in Ireland is aiming to offer patients full access to their medical records by November 2016.
The private 146-bed hospital plans to go live with the latest version of the Meditech electronic medical record (EMR) system, including a patient portal.
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Giving patients access to records is hugely important and empowers them to take control of their own health and care, Galway CIO Raphael Jaffrezic told Computer Weekly.
Through a patient portal, a module of the Meditech v.6.1 EMR, patients will be given full access to their medical records, test results and notes.
“We want them to be able to have a patient portal to access their medical records, and use the portal as a communication tool with the clinic,” Jaffrezic said.
If a patient is due in to have surgery, the hospital can give the patient information on what to expect through the patient portal. When the patient is then discharged, they can look in the patient portal for information on the recovery process and the different medications they are given.
Let the patients take control
Jaffrezic is a staunch believer in giving patients access to their medical records. If a patient sends a letter saying they want access to their records now, under the Data Protection Act they are entitled to see the full record, so why shouldn’t it be the same electronically, he said.
Some hospitals and organisations looking to give patients access to records are restricting access to a limited amount of information. Jaffrezic said one of the biggest questions at the Galway Clinic is about how to give them access.
“Are they going to understand the information? If we give them access to the lab results, that could be difficult for a patient to interpret, so we need to figure out how we are going to do that. But we are sure we want to give patients access to everything,” he said.
To ensure it’s done in a way that works for both patients and clinicians, the hospital is putting together a patient group and a group of clinicians to come up with a model for giving access to the records.
“It comes down to creating a meaningful solution for our patients and coming up with something they want to use and interact with,” Jaffrezic said, adding that some clinicians are concerned about giving access.
“But you’re always going to get that with disruptive technology,” he said. “We might have to change some processes and habits for consultants, such as how they are wording things when they write in the notes. But that’s not a reason not to do it.”
To make sure the patient records and the rest of the hospital’s data is safe, Galway is using BridgeHead’s Rapid data protection suite to back up the data. The software has been designed together with Meditech and is specifically tailored to healthcare organisations.
“It’s a strong back-up solution,” Jaffrezic said. “We’re backing up on a regular basis and it’s completely safe. We can be confident there isn’t going to be any data loss, so we don’t have to worry about that.”
Galway Clinic is already a Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMMS) Level 6 hospital. This is based on HIMMS analytics EMR Adoption Model, which scores hospitals on a scale from 0-7, where seven means there is no paper used to deliver healthcare in your organisation anymore.
It has used its old Meditech EMR for 10 years, and despite the system working well, it’s undertaking an expensive and big change. Moving to the latest version of Meditech effectively means ripping out the old system and replacing it with a completely new one.
“If we want to keep up the strategy of using IT as an enabler to leading the way in healthcare, we need to invest in a new product. The EMR has served us well, but you get to a level where it’s time to update and go with something new,” Jaffrezic said.
At the moment, clinicians have access to the EMR on their smartphones or tablets, but on the new system they “will not only be able to use [their smartphones] to view records, but will be able to prescribe drugs and write in the patient’s notes from their phone”.
The Galway Clinic is about 98% electronic, Jaffrezic said, with just eight of hundreds of patient forms left on paper.
Over the next year, three of those eight will become electronic. “Within the space of a year, we’ll hopefully only have five left on paper,” said Jaffrezic.