We’re being inundated with electronic information these days. We have many devices, our smartphones, tablets, computers and wearable devices, that connect us with the wider world.
You may use your smartphone to help you be a more effective caregiver. Many of us do so, perhaps without even realizing it.
Smartphones can be one of a caregiver’s most valuable tools, useful for tasks from calling our senior loved one’s healthcare professional to schedule an appointment, getting a prescription refilled or asking questions about their health.
Those healthcare professionals’ information is loaded into your smartphone and contact numbers are there with a push of your finger.
Perhaps you have alerts set up through a multitude of in-home monitoring devices that tell you if your senior loved ones have taken their medication, made a cup of coffee or opened the front door. Maybe you can see their thermostat readings on your phone.
You may get vital sign readings every morning with the latest blood pressure, weight, blood sugar, or pulse ox data.
Perhaps you surf the internet on one of your devices to get medical information about medications, symptoms, or to find a healthcare professional.
In one way or another, we are all connecting to benefit the health and safety of our senior loved ones. There is one more important way you can be in control of your senior’s health electronically — patient portals.
Personal Health Records
Did you realize that we all have access online to our health information and medical records? We can also access our senior’s health information on their behalf.
Healthcare reform under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) has mandated that patients have access electronically to their health records (EHR). Providing access to health data through a patient portal is part of what is known as “meaningful use” under the ACA. There are requirements under this program that dictate that your senior’s data is available in a timely manner – four days for an office visit and 36 hours for inpatient care.
Lab data, x-ray reports, physician evaluations and hospital treatments will be accessible via your senior’s patient portal (and your own too of course). The portal can be used for appointments and registration processes.
Have you used your senior’s patient portal yet or even your own?
Patient Portal Defined
What is a patient portal, you ask?
HealthIT.gov defines the patient portal in this way:
A patient portal is 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…
A portal is a way to consolidate your senior’s health information for quick access by healthcare providers. It brings all your senior’s health information to one location instead of being scattered across many institutions or offices. The health data can be viewed in your city, state, or even another country.
Because they have the ability to see a medication list, allergy history, surgical history, immunization record, latest blood work or other tests, all health care providers can be better prepared to make decisions for future treatment with more knowledge than ever before. They won’t have to duplicate services to reach a diagnosis. This is especially important for your senior loved one during an emergency.
As a family caregiver, you can also have access to their information. A patient portal can also facilitate communication between you, your senior and the healthcare provider. It will help family caregivers help their senior loved ones by being informed and in charge of their medical care and well-being.
Different electronic systems provide different types of options in addition to the health data. Your senior’s patient portal may give the family caregiver email access to the doctor, a way to check for results, the ability to update contact information and even refill prescriptions.
Some EHR patient portals have a place where you can make a list of questions for the doctor and even look up health information via the internet.
You can save time using your senior’s patient portal by downloading and then filling in forms before you enter the doctor’s waiting room.
You can even pay any outstanding bills via your senior’s patient portal. I know you love that, right?
Getting Started with a Patient Portal
Your senior’s healthcare provider will give you instructions to set up your senior’s account. You will need to give them a contact email address.
Once your senior’s visit or admission is completed, there will be an email at the address you provided that will give you a link to access the patient portal.
Follow the link provided. Once you click through the link, you will be prompted to set up your account for your senior. You will be asked to verify your senior’s information. Then you will create a password and fill in all security questions. Once you are set up, you can read further to learn how to make the best use of your senior’s patient portal.
Naturally, if your senior is able to do this himself, he would be the one to do it. However, you can do it together so that you can both have access and know the appropriate passwords and security questions in case you need it in the future.
Once it is set up, you can view it whenever the information is needed.
Personal Experience with the Patient Portal
I recently had the ability to access my own patient portal. I have been fortunate to be healthy so don’t really have a lot of reason to see my health history.
Just a few weeks ago, however, I had my annual physical and blood work. I knew about the patient portal but never had it set up. This was finally my opportunity.
I found it very easy to start up and was amazed at how quickly all the blood work was available. It had an explanation about what it meant too!
I am looking forward to the opportunity to further explore all the information and possibilities that are available to me in my patient portal.
Have you accessed yours or your senior’s yet? What interesting things have you learned or been able to do using your patient portal? We would love to hear about your experiences with the patient portal.