Interior Health (IH) is the first health authority in the province to launch a program that will gave patients an opportunity to view their health records, and book some appointments, online.
MyHealthPortal, which is currently available to patients in the Salmon Arm area who use Shuswap Lake General Hospital, offers users secure, 24-hour access to their personal health information. The service will eventually be rolled out to the more than 700,000 patients served by IH.
“We wanted to take various measures and control steps, as this is a brand new innovation,” says Norma Malanowich, vice-president and chief information officer for IH, explaining why Salmon Arm was chosen as a test site. “It’s a smaller community, with no private [health care] providers, so everyone who needs diagnostic services goes to the hospital, and stays within the IH system.”
More than 400 people signed up for the service. They can use it to view lab results, diagnostic imaging reports (such as X-rays, CT scans, and ultrasounds), upcoming appointments, and recent visit history. “What we’re moving to over time is the ability for patients to request appointments with clinics, or for tests at the hospital,” says Malanowich. “When you make the request for an appointment you can put in your schedule or preferences.”
There have been multiple accesses to the system already, and Malanowich says IH is checking in for feedback online, and asking what staff in the hospital are finding. “The feedback will help us plan and adapt going forward.”
She notes that the program is very much in line with the whole “self service” element that is a part of many people’s lives now, and that there is patient readiness to have this information available online. However, she adds that IH wants to be “very mindful” of the security and privacy aspects of the service. “We’re guided by the privacy commissioner in the province, and no concerns have been expressed so far.”
Health Minister Terry Lake recently stated that electronic health records are a key part of the solution for reaching patients across B.C., and Malanowich agrees.
“IH is primarily rural, and MyHealthPortal allows the connectedness we have between health care providers to be accessed by patients. If a person is coming from a rural community to, say, Kamloops, the clinicians in the home community can see the results. Patients will also be able to see their visits and results to all centres in IH, so this is a real advantage to people in rural communities.”
Malanowich says there are five or so smaller communities which have expressed interest in being part of the next stage of the program. The requests have primarily been coming from hospital administrators, leadership teams, and doctors, but she says that they are hearing from communities that they’re ready.
“We want to make sure we have a system that can reach the whole catchment area of IH, and manage that level of volume. We do so much online today, and people are ready for this.”