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In October of 2018, Mayo Clinic heralded its $1.5 billion implementation of an electronic health records system spanning 90 hospitals and clinics. Other powerhouse users of the same cloud-based system — called Epic — include Johns Hopkins Medicine, Cedars-Sinai Health System, Loma Linda University Health, and UCLA Medical Center.
“In 2017, we upgraded to Epic because it offered much more functionality than our previous system,” Eisenhower Health chief information officer David Perez reports. He cites, as an example of the benefits, patients’ ability to view their test results in 24 to 36 hours.
Eisenhower Health chief information officer David Perez encourages access and communication to empower patients.
“MyChart is our patient portal where they quickly can see test results, medications they are on, and previous and upcoming appointments,” Perez says. “It also allows them to fill out questionnaires from home prior to doctor visits — versus having to do so on a clipboard in a waiting room. When such information is entered through the portal, doctors don’t have to spend patient time looking at what has been written minutes before they enter an exam room.”
Physicians not only can easily review a patient’s medical profile, history, and current appointments in the Eisenhower system, but also can use the portal to send messages and reminders. Perez touts the system’s doctor-patient interface.
“Messaging your physician now is a two-way communication,” he says. “And like any other app, you can set up notifications for new [MyChart] posts.”
Though Epic is limited to medical practices with 10 or more physicians, Eisenhower’s primary-care offices, urgent-care centers, specialty clinics, and affiliated physicians — as parts of the same healthcare system — have access to Epic regardless of the number of physicians practicing at each location.
In October, Epic added 190 health systems in the United States and eight other countries. The MyChart portal represents a “one-stop shop” for patients’ medical records even if they get their care from unrelated providers, as long as those providers are in the Epic exchange. This may be an important factor for individuals with residences in different cities or states, which describes many Coachella Valley homeowners.
Federally mandated, the aggregation of electronic health records (EHR in governmental and medical parlance) aids in diagnoses, reduces errors, cuts medical costs (for example, by preventing redundant tests), and improves patient outcomes. Under the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services banner, the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology notes that EHRs “automatically check for problems whenever a new medication is prescribed and alerts the clinician to potential conflicts.” The ONC further asserts that EHRs assist doctors in working with patients “to manage specific risk factors or combinations of risk factors.”
Eisenhower Health MyChart.
The results of multiple surveys and studies published online and in medical journals support the premise that EHRs hold value for both healthcare providers and patients. Three-quarters of doctors in one national survey reported that EHRs helped them deliver better patient care.
Published in Family Medicine, a University of South Alabama study specifically related to electronic prescribing revealed high satisfaction rates among individuals using EHRs to manage their medications.
As most recently highlighted by COVID-19, public health needs a robust system of electronic records to track decision-making factors and coordinate care. While a pandemic and associated governmental actions leave many feeling a loss of power over their lives, EHRs give people ready access to their individual information and doctors.
“Studies show that those who are connected to their healthcare providers, with more avenues of communication, feel they are more in control of their own health,” Perez confirms.