At the Quality Institute, I work to encourage change that makes health care safer, more accessible and more coordinated. Often the changes in policy I explore do not affect the real-world practice of medicine until years later.
So I am always excited when I see real investments in health care policy and infrastructure play out in my own life.
I have been a patient at my area medical practice for more than two decades. Little has changed in that time. But in my most recent visit suddenly everything was different. First, the receptionist told me about the new patient portal and then the nurse explained the value to me, the patient, in signing up. Finally, I thought, an easy way for me to access my own medical records.
The nurse said I also could use the portal to make appointments, request prescription refills, or ask non-emergency questions.
Then during my examination with my gynecologist we discussed evidenced-based practices and I was happy to see that she was taking the time to explain which tests and procedures I needed — and did not need — and why. The physician, less than a decade out of medical school, had my records on her computer and easily navigated between talking with me and taking notes. For me, it was no different than a physician jotting notes on a paper chart.
Upon leaving, I was invited to provide feedback on my experience with the physician and with the office staff in an electronic patient survey. Was the office staff helpful? Did my physician clearly communicate the information I needed? The focus was on gathering information about my experience.
Yes, I know other parts of the nation, and other parts of New Jersey, have done all this for years. Nonetheless, seeing changes happening in my sleepy community physician office shows me that medicine everywhere is slowly becoming more patient-centered and more tech-savvy.
Once home, I signed up for the portal and the technology worked perfectly. The information from my visit already was entered into the portal. Sadly, records from my other providers are not yet connected to this portal, but I see a valuable start to helping me keep better track of my health care.
The changes will position the office for the payment reforms ahead, when the patient’s overall health experience will factor into reimbursement from both government and private insurers. As a result of these reforms, all practices must change the way they interact with their patients. Care is more evidence-based, more patient-centered. I saw firsthand that change may be slow, but it’s coming.