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Patients starting to access their medical information on portals

Jennifer Clark, M.D., Medical Informatics Officer [November 08 2013]

If you've ever been hospitalized or helped care for a loved one in the hospital you might have found it difficult to keep the information and hospital paperwork organized. I've been in the same situation and would have loved a better system of storing and communicating my loved one's personal medical information.

Now consider for a moment ATM cards. This is perhaps the most common example of how we access personal information -- in this case financial -- with the assumption that our personal information is protected. Other examples including making purchases online, paying our car registration fee on the DMV website, buying airline tickets. Even when you make a credit card purchase at the store, information about you is flowing electronically over secure routes.

Health care information is too now moving online. The Center for Medicare services (CMS or Medicare) wants physicians and hospitals to start providing information to the public in a similar manner, but with your medical information provided to you in a secure way and patient privacy maintained.

Hospitals, including The Hospital of Central Connecticut, many physician offices and even some laboratory companies are opening up “patient portals.” These internet web pages or websites enable individuals to sign up and be able to access key parts of their health information through what's known as patient portals; HOCC's portal is accessed through www.thocc.org. Most portals require signing up directly at the office or hospital in person with two forms of ID. Once you have signed up for a portal you are given or can select a password. Your password is the key to unlocking the portal for you, while keeping your information secure from others.

On a health information portal, you will generally find a list of medications your physicians have prescribed, your allergies, immunizations, a list of medical problems or diagnoses, and most laboratory data. Depending on the website, you may be able to add your own information to update the portal. You may be able to securely email your physician through the portal or request an appointment. Some portals allow you to download or print information, like your most recent patient care instructions or a list of your medications. No more searching for a piece of paper!

Jennifer Clark, M.D., also an infectious disease specialist, is a member of The Hospital of Central Connecticut (HOCC) medical staff and practices at HOCC, 100 Grand St., New Britain, 860-224-5510. For referrals to HOCC physicians, please contact our free Need-A-Physician referral service by phone at 1-800-321-6244 or online, www.thocc.org.