Patient Access to Online Medical Records: 5 Advantages for ASCs

punzakPatients are becoming more involved in their healthcare, and this trend could lead to better healthcare outcomes in the future.

An article recently published in the Wall Street Journal titled "More Healthcare Providers Are Encouraging Patients to Peek Inside Their Medical Records" details how patients can make updates and fix errors in their history to save time at the physicians' office and possibly avoid complications associated with misinformation. According to the article, more than half of physicians use electronic medical records and as many as 95 percent of the medication lists found in patient medical records are susceptible to errors.

This is good news for Medical Web Technologies, which has been coaxing providers to embrace patient access to medical records through their online portal One Medical Passport for more than a decade.

"This was a validation of what we've been saying for 15 years," says Founder and CEO of One Medical Passport Stephen Punzak, MD. "We started the company because we thought patients were the best source of information and that patients wanted to be more involved in their healthcare. If you gave them tools and enabled them to provide their health information, they are able to increase the completeness and accuracy of medical records in real time."

Now patients are able to provide or update their medical history and information before their visits, saving nurses time and giving patients more control over their records.

"Relying on phones to track a patient down is highly inefficient," says Melissa Weik, administrator at North Pointe Surgery Center. "Most people can't speak during work hours nor do they have access to the necessary information to ensure accurate histories, Patients are accustomed to doing business online and expect no less when dealing with their healthcare providers."

Here are five trends Dr. Punzak has noticed among ambulatory surgery centers with One Medical Passport that could give these cutting-edge centers an advantage in the future:

1. Patients are comfortable with online security and convenience. When the company first started, Dr. Punzak fielded many questions about whether patient information would be secure online. The "personal account" culture we see today with bank accounts, student loans and other personal information wasn't as ubiquitous. However, security has tightened and patients are comfortable accessing their information from home.

"Everyone does everything online," says Dr. Punzak. "When we started the company, people were still using dial-up internet to complete their histories online. There were some questions about security. But now most people have high-speed Internet and it doesn't take long to fill out their information. Patients expect the same level of convenience with their medical records as they have with banking and online travel."

2. The ASC runs more efficiently. Accurate and timely information can have a huge impact on whether the ASC runs smoothly. The front-end functions and procedure might still run well without an accurate patient record, but wrong information plugs up back-end functions with claim denials and lost payment.

"Before One Medical Passport, we had a fairly high delay rate for insurance claims due to inaccurate information provided by doctors' offices," says Ruth Maxwell, administrator at Kirby Glen Surgery Center in Houston. "Placing control in the hands of patients, information is current and filled out correctly, allowing us to process claims more quickly."

3. ASCs with online medical records are considered "tech savvy." ASCs are on the forefront of medical innovation to provide a better patient outcome and experience for a lower cost than other healthcare settings; now they can be on the technology forefront as well with online medical record capabilities.

"It's a great way for the ASC to make a good first impression," says Dr. Punzak. "When you make a good first impression, it sets everything else up to go well. If you have too many phone calls and nurses asking the same information, you are starting from a less positive place."

4. Patient satisfaction is higher. In a recent MWT survey, more than 90 percent of patients said they want to go online to record medical histories upfront. Patients are on a schedule and want to save time as much as physicians and ASCs do. "When you show you are willing to invest in technology for the convenience of patients, they are more willing to forgive you if the OR is running a bit behind," says Dr. Punzak.

5. Older patients are going online in large numbers. A physician in the WSJ article predicted younger patients would most frequently use online health records, but was surprised to learn that older patients were the biggest users of the online technology. Dr. Punzak has seen the exact same thing with One Medical Passport with a large portion of older patients preferring to go online as well.

"ASCs think their patients are older and won't go online, but a half-million people over the age of 60 completed a Medical Passport last year," says Dr. Punzak. "Seniors are very active email and online users. People consistently underestimate how good older patients are at completing their health histories online."

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