CVC putting patient info at fingertips

Mon, 07/27/2009 - 8:47am
By: The Citizen


As the world of medicine continues to improve through technology, patients of a local cardiovascular practice will soon be able to take advantage of it from their very own homes.

Cardiovascular Consultants of Georgia is rolling out a new “patient portal” website where patients can request test results, medication refills, appointments and much more. The patient portal also allows electronic access to part of patients’ medical records and a chance for them to send non-urgent questions to physicians over a secure connection, said CVC’s Michelle McElwaney.

Patients may also update their medical record online by entering any newly-prescribed medications, upload their blood pressure logs and other data which can help manage treatment, she added. Adding new medications can help catch potential drug interactions, McElwaney said.

Patients can enroll for the patient portal website at any CVC office, McElwaney said. They will then be presented a letter with their unique ID and a brochure to guide patients through the sign-up process.
Once enrolled, patients can choose to have all their lab and test results emailed to them instead of shared over the phone, McElwaney said. CVC is urging patients to sign up with a personal email address instead of a work email address so the medical information remains completely private, McElwaney said.

CVC Chief Operating Officer Dennis Breslin noted that a survey of patients showed an overwhelming desire to implement the online patient portal system. Putting the power at patient’s fingertips is also helpful because it can avoid frustrations from attempts to call information into the office via phone, he added.

“It’s tremendously convenient to the patient,” Breslin said of the patient portal system.

The practice undertook the patient portal website as one of several developments from its quality initiative program, Breslin noted. The goal is to increase the quality of service and patient relationships, he added.

“It’s great to be a part of it,” Breslin said. “All the physicians and staff are behind these programs.”

For months now CVC has been using electronic medical records on the cutting edge of medicine including EKG machines that wirelessly transmit data from each test, said Dr. Nimish Dhruva.

“I can pull up your information no matter where I am in the world,” Dhruva said, recalling a recent trip to Paris during which one of his patients ended up in a local emergency room.

Dhruva was able to pull up the patient’s information via computer and advise the treating physicians on the appropriate course of action which in this case included skipping the cardiac cath lab because of a physical abnormality in the patient.

CVC is charging patients a one-time $25 fee to sign up for the patient portal, but that’s a drop in the bucket compared to the cost of moving to the electronic medical system, pegged at roughly $1.2 million.

One of the main benefits to patients from the electronic medical records system is increased safety with a far smaller chance for error compared to the previous transcription system.

Another benefit is the immediate action that can be taken when a product or medication recall is announced. In years past, employees would spend weeks diving through each patient’s file to determine if they are affected.

Now, with a few clicks of the mouse each patient can be identified and contacted, Dhruva said.

The electronic patient records are also evaluated to compare CVC’s care to other cardiovascular practices to make sure they are treating patients appropriately. An independent firm that culls that information has determined that CVC is in the top 5 percent among cardiovascular practices in the country for doing so.

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