Epic on MyChart redesign: 'A more personalized experience for patients'

Developers from Epic say they tried to keep the recent redesign accessible and easy to use, with patient information "always front and center" to reduce the need to navigate to different portals.
By Kat Jercich
01:56 PM
The Epic logo

In mid-2018, ideas for redesigning Epic Systems' MyChart patient portal started to gain momentum at the electronic health record giant.

One prevailing philosophy, said the team, was not overwhelming patients with information right off the bat. "No matter how much power we put into it," said Trevor Berceau, product development lead at Epic, "it needs to be easy" for patients to use.

The redesign began rolling out earlier this year, with the first customer taking it live in August. "Since then, we've seen the floodgates open," said Sean Bina, vice president of access and patient experience at the company.

Although Epic began developing the original iteration of MyChart in the early 2000s, more and more data has become available to patients over the years. "It became a little harder for patients to navigate and know what the most important things were to deal with at any moment," said Bina.

The updated health feed allows users to customize their home screens, including test results, appointment scheduling and prior visits. Patients can also incorporate the medical information of children or others to whom they provide care, such as parents.

"We find that patients tend to take three paths," said Bina. "They have a symptom they might want to figure out. They might want to schedule with a specific provider; and they might be looking for the next available appointment time."

Bina observed that health providers have become more transparent about available appointment slots, allowing patients to "do the same thing" in terms of scheduling as they might be used to doing when, say, picking flights. 

"The redesign focused on creating a more personalized experience for patients where their information is always front and center; they don't need to navigate to different portals," said Bina.

The redesign also includes a link-accounts function, where patients search other healthcare organizations for their chart information. 

This interoperability potential is, obviously, simpler with Epic customers than with non-Epic customers.

Even so, said Berceau, "we have been working with some of the newer interoperability standards to start opening the doors for non-Epic customers as well."

"We use the FHIR standard for doing those connections," he continued, so "we expect to see it happen a lot." (Epic recently announced that about half of the patient records exchanged on its Care Everywhere platform occurred between Epic and non-Epic customers.) 

Given that the recent shift to telehealth has shined a light on the digital divide for patients with disabilities, questions around accessibility and simplicity of use are at the forefront of user-facing technology.

"That is at the core of everything we do from a design and development standpoint," said Berceau. The new MyChart has full accessibility support built in, he said, including the potential for speech-to-text or other keyboard integration and in-line training for patients.

He also noted the ease of sharing one's record with proxies, which can be important for patients who might benefit from having family members or advocates involved in care.

Although MyChart does not require re-authentication for patients who wish to share their records – which might theoretically create privacy issues, should someone gain access to the app via a patient's device – the team notes that the data is not actually stored on a user's machine, but in the cloud.

Overall, the redesign "started with what we were hearing from patients directly, and we did a lot of rapid iterations and getting patient feedback: seeing what worked well and what didn't," said Berceau.

"We want to make sure we are talking with people we're designing for," he said.

Kat Jercich is senior editor of Healthcare IT News.
Twitter: @kjercich
Email: kjercich@himss.org
Healthcare IT News is a HIMSS Media publication.

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