Yampa Valley Medical Center gives patients new way to access medical records
July 7, 2014
Steamboat Springs — Physicians at Yampa Valley Medical Center no longer are surprised to see a patient arrive at the hospital with an iPad containing their detailed medical history.
Just a few months ago, the wife of an emergency room patient handed doctors a tablet of records when her husband was seeking treatment.
The move saved some precious time.
"The doctors didn’t have to go making phone calls and getting faxes" to get the patient’s medical records, YVMC applications analyst Michael Peilet said.
The case of the iPad at the emergency room is a small example of a larger nationwide movement away from paper medical records. And YVMC is on board with the trend.
Starting this month, all hospital patients here will be able to access their own medical records online via myChart, an online service that allows patients to view lab results, keep track of appointments and access their medical histories.
Hospital officials hope the move will make it more convenient for patients to keep up with their health records via a secure online portal and get them more involved in their own care.
Having the records readily available online also will allow patients to ensure their allergies and list of current medications are accurate and up to date.
"We’re improving the quality of care," Mark Clark, the hospital’s vice president of information systems, said Friday as he and Pieret showed off the new system in a conference room. "Having a portal like this also helps to ensure we’re not duplicating services that have already been done or ordering that same test somebody already has gotten."
Out-of-state patients also can access their records online instead of having to keep track of a stack of paper documents.
YVMC isn’t alone in digitizing medical records.
Hospitals across the country in recent years have been receiving financial incentives and help from the federal government to move to such systems.
And the price tag is substantial.
Since 2011, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services have paid hospitals and physicians more than $24 billion in incentives for using electronic medical record systems.
In 2005, researchers estimated the payoff could be much bigger than the cost of the program.
A leading nonprofit research organization at the time projected the rapid adoption of electronic medical records and related technology could improve the quality of care and save the U.S. $81 billion annually by bringing efficiencies to the system.
However, a new report this year from RAND, the same research organization, concluded that the nationwide impact of adopting this technology has been mixed, and there is much room for improvement.
Doctors at YVMC said their new online records portal comes with many advantages for patients, and they would have moved to the system regardless of the financial incentives offered by the government.
They see it as a way to improve customer service and promote patient engagement in their own health care.
Patients will be given access to a wide range of information and test results on their computer that they previously couldn’t have gotten without calling or visiting their doctors.
In some cases, patients can have the hospital share encrypted records with their other health care providers online.
"About 50 percent of the health systems in the country have portals like this now, and we expect that number to grow," Clark said.