Online access: Portals connect patients with their medical info

Chuck McIntosh | Daily Journal illustration

Chuck McIntosh | Daily Journal illustration

By Michaela Gibson Morris

Daily Journal

Across Northeast Mississippi, patient portals are opening online access to doctors and hospitals.

“We do everything online, book airline tickets, paying bills,” said Tupelo family physician Dr. Brad Crosswhite, who helped pilot the North Mississippi Medical Clinic portal in 2012. “Why not handle medicine the same way?”

The secure, free services give access to medication histories, visit summaries, lab results and reminders about upcoming appointments. On most hospital portals, patients can see their discharge instructions. With the clinic portals, patients can request refills and communicate securely with the staff.

CROSSWHITE

CROSSWHITE

“The ultimate goal is to have patients more engaged with their care,” said Beverly Jordan, Baptist Memorial Healthcare chief clinical transformation officer.

Patients need tools to manage their health between doctors’ visits. Especially with chronic conditions like asthma, diabetes and high blood pressure, success often hinges on how well individuals can execute the game plan they developed with their health care team between visits.

“By partnering with patients and giving them electronic access, we hope we’ll have better outcomes,” said Rachael Hill, North Mississippi Health Services manager of physician systems.

The portals for area hospitals and clinics generally don’t give patients unlimited access to doctor’s notes and detailed lab reports, although patients can request more detailed information that can be delivered securely through the portal.

In the short term, physicians using portals say their patients have appreciated the extra access to information and communication.

TAVAREZ

TAVAREZ

“It cuts down on the phone calls and back and forth,” said Amory pediatrician Dr. Jose Tavarez, who is part of the CarePlus clinic organization. “It is a very efficient way to communicate.”

Crosswhite said his patients have appreciated seeing lab results as soon as he signs off on them. The patient report in the portal flags the results that need immediate action, not simply the ones that might be just outside the ideal range.

“We’ve tried to make it more meaningful,” Crosswhite said.

Around the region

Although there are a number of incentives for hospitals and clinics to move to electronic records and make patient portals available, those who treat Medicare and Medicaid patients also face penalties if they don’t meet meaningful use benchmarks.

A number of hospitals and clinic systems around the region have patient portals up and going, and more are coming online.

North Mississippi Health Services hospitals including those in Tupelo, Iuka, Pontotoc, Calhoun City and West Point; Gilmore Memorial Regional Medical Center in Amory; OCH Regional Medical Center in Starkville; and Magnolia Region Health Center in Corinth have all gone live with patient portal services.

Baptist Memorial Hospitals in New Albany, Oxford and Booneville will have portals go live between December and March 2015. The MyChart portal is up for most of the system’s metro Memphis hospitals and many of their affiliated clinics.

Each health system operates their own portal, and depending on the organization, there may be separate portals for hospital stays and outpatient clinic visits.

North Mississippi Health Services has one portal for hospitals and other for clinics. However, the clinic portal includes independent health care providers who contract with the hospital system for electronic medical records.

“Ours is unique because it’s a community chart,” covering 80 clinics and 300 providers, said Connie Renfroe, North Mississippi Medical Clinics nurse manager for best practices and innovations.

The clinic system portals are also separate for Gilmore’s CarePlus clinics and OCH Regional-affiliated physicians.

Baptist Memorial hospitals and the affiliated Baptist Medical Group are all together in one portal. All the Baptist medical offices will be available on the portal by the end of the year.

“One of the biggest benefits is that it’s an integrated record,” Jordan said.

How they work

To protect patient privacy and meet federal HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Privacy Act), signing up for patient portals requires multi-step identity verification.

“It’s designed to improve safety and efficiency of care while protecting privacy and security,” Jordan said.

Generally, email and text message don’t meet those standards, which is why patients have to log into the portal to receive detailed medical information, Renfroe said.

To sign up for portals, patients will need an email address to set up online access. Organizations have processes set up for those who need to serve as proxies for children and dependent adults.

For many hospitals, people don’t have to wait until they have a hospital stay to sign up for one of the hospital portal services. Medical record departments can guide individuals in setting up portal accounts.

“There’s a lot of excitement about getting signed up,” Hill said.

For most clinics, the process begins in person. For example, after identification verification, clinics in the NMMC system give patients a PIN good for 30 days.

Baptist Medical Group offices are encouraging patients to complete the entire process in the office, Jordan said.

“That way, when you leave, you can immediately benefit,” Jordan said.

michaela.morris@journalinc.com

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PATIENT PORTALS

For more information on accessing patient portals, visit or contact:

Baptist Memorial Healthcare

Baptistonline.org/onecare

Gilmore Regional Medical Center

GilmoreHealth.MyHealthHome.com

• (877) 456-9617, Monday–Friday, 9 a.m.-5 p.m.

Magnolia Regional Health Center

myhealth.mrhc.org

North Mississippi Health Services

www.nmhs.net/portals.php

OCH Regional Medical Center

www.ochregional.com, click on patient portal link

• Email – ochehrhelp@och.org