The Patient Portal: Help or Hinderance?
This blog post was inspired by the discussion that member and volunteer mentor, Becky (@becsbuddy), started of the same name The Patient Portal—Help or Hindrance? It's such a good title, we used it too.
The 21st Century Cures Act
It is crazy to think how far we have come with technology and the enormous access we have to information. Patient Portals allows us access to our own health information and the ability to check lab, x-ray, or diagnostic test results in real time, often before our doctor can review the information. Since 1970 patients have had the right to request and view their entire medical record. The 21st Century Cures Act (Cures Act) initially passed in 2016 and additional conditions of the act set guidelines for the release of electronic health information immediately to patients. The intention was to make clinical information more readily available to patients by removing barriers and delays that existed with traditional means of requesting medical records. The Department of Health and Human Services began enforcing the rule which declared that a hospital or doctor must allow access to a person’s health information. Failure to do so could result in fines for the doctor and hospital.
Having instant access to lab, CT scan or diagnostic tests before the doctor receives this information can result in a life-altering diagnosis, confusion, and worry. Personally, I have consulted “Doctor Google” several times to try to understand the results of a test I found in my electronic medical record. This resulted in a rabbit hole of inaccurate information. My hope is to provide helpful information or potential advice on what you can do to relieve stress and worry when it comes to accessing test results.
A survey conducted in partnership with the American Medical Association and a patient-owned cooperative found patients want their information readily accessible, but in certain cases, debilitation, life-limiting, or a terminal illness they wanted to speak with their physician.
Communication is key
If you are undergoing a medical test, ask your provider what the possible results might be, and what each would mean. It is important to know what the expectation is for timing- both expectations around when results will be in your electronic medical record and when you can expect to hear back from the doctor’s office. Also, be sure to ask how you will hear about the test results from your doctor, will they call, schedule a follow up appointment, and when will this happen. Knowing this information can ease emotional distress.
Ultimately, it’s your decision.
Every person is different on how they want to receive information. If you know you would appreciate having a connection with your physician before seeing test results one tip would be to turn off Patient Portal notifications for test results. You can always turn the notifications back on. For others, they may want to know results right away, even if results may be potentially life changing. Knowing information ahead of time gives them an opportunity to be better informed, process the information, and make a list of questions to ask at a follow-up visit. You know yourself best and should decide what works for you in your situation. Most importantly, do not make assumptions until you have the opportunity to discuss them with your physician.
Read experiences of fellow members, portal challenges and helpful tips. Add your story and tips to the growing conversation here: The Patient Portal—Help or Hindrance?