Got the Sniffles? Log on And Feel Better

A team of medical professionals consulting patient records

With flu season fiercely upon us,, an online news network in Alabama, asked Dr. Turner Overton, a doctor in the Division of Infectious Diseases at UAB who is leading a flu vaccine study, and Dr. Mary McIntyre, the assistant state health officer for disease control with the Alabama Department of Public Health, to answer questions from the public on the flu and the flu vaccine. Stacy Collett of says that our fast-paced, cyber-connected society has created an on-demand culture of consumers who expect their healthcare to be readily accessible online. This expectation spawned the first patient portal, a database platform that enables patients and healthcare professionals to communicate, access data and schedule appointments, all within one secured site.

The Doctor is In

Patient portals contain personal health information and public information from electronic health records (EHRs). They also allow patients to schedule appointments, check their test results online and communicate through live chat with their own doctors and nurses. Users can access their medical files and communicate from the privacy of their own mobile devices and desktops. Many of the current users for this technology are younger, tech-savvy patients, says Collett. Many of which are terminally ill patients who communicate often with their doctors.

Convenient for Healthcare Professionals

Dr. David Lee Scher, founder of DLS Healthcare Consulting LLC, says that messaging to a patient portal can allow physicians to be more productive and active in their patients lives. Patients can access their test results as soon as they are posted online, so doctors don’t have to worry about relaying the information to patients over the phone. This messaging feature also increases the satisfaction of patients. Doctors can send reminders. A quick message with alert a patient that he has an upcoming appointment or that he needs to fill a prescription. Doctors can also use this tool to offer patients last-minute information before or after surgery.

HIPAA Approved

To maintain patient satisfaction, portal developers must make sure that the site and all of it’s information is completely confidential and compliant with Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) regulations. Craig Mathias, principal at Farpoint Group — an advisory firm that specializes in wireless and mobile technologies, products, services, and systems — said that developers need to take their adherence to HIPAA regulations one step further and should look into using code encryption to secure patient files. Potentially, medical administrators could keep track of who accesses confidential information.

Moving Forward

Patient Portals like MyHealth Manager, which went live in 2007, have opened a doorway for patients and healthcare professionals, allowing patients and doctors to connect with each other in a safe and secure online environment. The future in digital medicine and online healthcare is encouraging; proving that technology and medicine do work well together.

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