Control of our medical data and having it accessible when we need it are important concerns for seniors and their family caregivers.
Is your senior loved one in control of theirs?
Or at least it should be a concern.
How about you with your own data?
Patient portals are underused by seniors for a number of reasons. Many seniors can’t access them, don’t know how to access them, or aren’t aware of the importance of having their health records.
Do you know that people who are using Medicare have access to a place to download their health records?
Originating in the Veteran’s Administration, the blue button is a place for seniors to store their health data in a way that is portable and accessible to them so it is where they need it anytime. Your data can be downloaded to your smartphone, computer or thumb drive.
All too often health consumers go to a multitude of different health practitioners. This is especially true of seniors who are managing multiple conditions.
Seniors often have a primary doctor, a cardiologist, a dermatologist, a dentist, a podiatrist, an endocrinologist, a clinic, an imaging center, an infusion center, a pharmacy and more.
This means that their health information is typically stored in multiple locations that aren’t communicating with each other.
The Blue Button, better than your patient portal because it can store all your health records from various healthcare settings, holds a 3-year medical history of medication lists, encounters, tests and provider information.
The Blue Button is managed by Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC), part of the Department of Health and Human Services.
Anyone who is a veteran, member of the military, uses Medicare or your personal health plan or provider participates can utilize this technology.
Using this electronic platform gives your senior access to their claims and personal health information that is maintained by your doctors, hospitals, health plans, and others.
There is no cost to use the Blue Button as long as your provider participates.
Everyone has a right to their health records and your medical provider must provide you with access to a system. It may be a patient portal or a Blue Button.
Using some form of technology to gain control over your own health data is an important step for seniors to take and caregivers to assist in securing.
The app that puts your health information on a secure platform that can be taken in your hand on your smartphone or tablet is called the iBlueButton by Humetrix.
It was originally launched as a companion to the Blue Button initiative but is now the leading mobile health platform.
The data is stored securely and can be used to share information with healthcare providers and members of the healthcare team as you decide needs your information.
The information in your app can be from Medicare, VA, Tricare and some state Medicaid plans or health records from your doctor or healthcare facility.
It can contain your medication list, medical history, and contact information for caregivers and healthcare professionals.
It may reduce overuse of medical testing or imaging that could cost your senior money because they have the ability to share their record with doctors who might not have access to results and order new tests.
It features a summary record that puts everything at your fingertips. You can mark some things as private so they won’t be shared with others.
Having control over your medical records either through your patient portal, the Blue Button or an app like the iBlueButton, gives you the opportunity to spot errors to be corrected and finally have your personal information in your own hands.
But this is also a two-way street since your doctor can share with you as well. They can add patient instructions, images, and videos for you to store in your own record.
The federal government has mandated that healthcare systems provide customers with a secure way to access their medical records.
A patient portal is defined as:
“a secure online website that gives patients convenient 24-hour access to personal health information from anywhere with an Internet connection. Using a secure username and password, patients can view health information such as: Recent doctor visits. Discharge summaries. Medications.”
Many seniors and family caregivers are already accessing a patient portal through their local healthcare agency. It requires a one-time startup, computer/internet access and the system to upload your information.
Patient portals can allow you to view your test results, doctor notes and medication list. Some systems also allow you to request prescription refills, schedule appointments, check insurance claims, make payments, view education flyers, and email the healthcare team.
Important But Still Room for Improvement
One of the main complaints about these healthcare driven portals to the electronic medical record is that they are not inclusive or portable.
They don’t talk with anyone outside their own system which can be difficult for consumers who have multiple healthcare providers and testing sites.
Seniors who live with different family members during the year may have trouble accessing all their records from other locations because there is no interoperability.
Even seniors who live in one place but go to different health providers, or those within different healthcare systems, within their own community can’t get their data to be shared.
Having one place that is a hub for all our health information that can be shared when we choose to share it and with whom we desire to know our health history, especially in an emergency situation, is essential to our well-being.
Cost containment is a small factor compared to the ability to improve our senior’s well-being and medical care.