Imagine being able to access all your health information as easily as checking your email -- just by typing in a user name and password.
The ability to check test results, review medication lists and recall dates of vaccinations online is becoming a reality as hospitals, doctors and other medical care providers begin to adhere to a federal mandate requiring public and private health care providers to adopt electronic health records in order to maintain existing Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements.
Memorial Hospital in Belleville recently started a new patient portal called MyMemorial, which will allow patients online access to personal health histories. In April, St. Elizabeth's Hospital in Belleville announced its patients would benefit from a similar program, Chart My Health.
Mary Lou Schmulbach, director of clinical informaticts at Memorial, explained: "Currently if patients want access to medical records, they have to come to hospital and sign a release."
She mentioned things that patients often are eager to find out, like the results of lab tests and X-rays.
"Instead they can log in to the MyMemorial portal and have access to that information," she said.
While past medical visit dates will be included in the files, any medical testing results prior to March 1, 2014, will not be available online, she said.
Schmulbach said some people who are not web savvy, still may benefit from the portal. For example, an older person may choose to share his or her password with adult children, who could log in and check on test results.
"A child who lives out of state, you can give them information, so they have access to that," she said.
In addition, the online records will be accessible to patients, regardless of their location.
"If you have a problem and you're out of town, it'll be available on your iPad or your phone," she said. You can get to it."
Anyone not interested in having an online account may choose not to sign up.
The federal mandate stems from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 and requires public and private healthcare providers to adopt "meaningful use" of electronic health records in order to maintain existing Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements and receive other financial incentives.
To be considered "meaningful use" as defined by HealthIT.gov, doctors and hospitals must provide electronic health records that benefit patients by:
* Giving quicker access to health information;
* Helping to protect medical privacy;
* Giving a summary of each visit;
* Helping to prevent drug errors; and
* Making health information available to share with other doctors, according to patient preferences, in order to coordinate care.
The online systems from St. Elizabeth's and Memorial are not compatible, so it is likely patients may have more than one account to access electronic health records from separate healthcare providers.
Debbie Sexton, director of Health Information Services and privacy officer at St. Elizabeth's, explained: "The Chart My Health software is a product from the company AllScripts, which is also accessible by any other physician office or hospital using the same product. They don't have to be in the Hospital Sisters Health System family."
Sexton said the system transmits a continuity of care document to the portal containing health information, such as allergies and medications.
"This collection of patient health information will continually grow as they, the patient, adds other information to make it more robust," Sexton said.
To enroll in MyMemorial, Memorial Hospital patients should call Medical Records at 618-257-5300 or visit www.memhosp.com.
To enroll in ChartMyHealth, call 855-325-4747 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. In addition, St. Elizabeth's patients can visit Health Information Services (Medical Records) from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. All participants must have an email address and provide one form of photo identification.
Contact reporter Maria Hasenstab at email@example.com or 618-239-2460.