Patients, referring docs at MD Anderson making good use of Web portal

By Molly Merrill
10:01 AM

Just one year after its launch, officials at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center report that 57 percent of patients and 40 percent of referring community physicians are using its Web-based portal for personal health information.

Patients are accessing their medical information an average of 3.3 times per week, while referring physicians are clicking on their patients' records 2.8 times per week, according to MD Anderson Clinical Information Services reports. Officials also noted that new-patient users are being added every week as they register at MD Anderson, return for checkups or hear about the portal.

"With the information available on PHR, patients, MD Anderson physicians and community physicians can communicate more effectively because everyone is better informed and more actively engaged in care," said Thomas Feeley, MD, vice president of medical operations, who collaborated with MD Anderson's technology team to develop the solution. This makes for a better patient/physician relationship and, ultimately, a better patient experience."

Last year when MD Anderson introduced its PHR, it was the first comprehensive cancer center in the nation to offer protected, Web-based access to medical information, according to officials. Because MD Anderson was already using a patient information platform known as myMDAnderson, a secure patient portal for making appointments, asking questions of care teams, getting approvals for pharmacy refills, retrieving patient education materials and making payments, the addition of a PHR was a natural, said Larry Driver, MD, professor in the department of pain medicine, who worked closely on the project with the Medical Records Committee. Referring physicians also have their own section on myMDAnderson to check on the status of patients.

Officials said more than 28,000 patients who logged into myMDAnderson have accessed their personal medical information, test results and records. The PHR located on the myMDAnderson site provides patients, survivors and referring physicians access to personal medical information – including radiology and endoscopy reports, medication records, laboratory results, transcribed physician notes and survivorship information – from anywhere in the world. It is available to all patients and survivors seen on MD Anderson's main campus and its six regional care centers in the Houston area. Those patients and survivors can also approve access for their primary care or referring physicians so they can stay current and involved in their MD Anderson care.

While there is a wide range of information accessible on the PHR, laboratory results, diagnostic imaging and pathology reports are not immediately available to patients – though this information is readily available to referring physicians.

A delay in posting such results allows the care team an appropriate period of time to see the patient in an appointment, interpret the results and talk through any questions a patient may have, said Driver. The results are usually available for patient view seven days after they are finalized to allow for this dialogue.

"It's important to allow our specialized healthcare teams the time they need to walk a patient through new test results," said Driver, who also is a clinical ethicist. "It could be very disconcerting for a patient to see that one of their markers has spiked or a radiology report that notes a questionable shadow without proper interpretation or context from their physician. What's great is that once a patient and their team have had the conversation, the patient can go back, read the reports, and that can reinforce the visit," he said.

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