Telemedicine & Patient Data Access: Pandemically Perfect Together

Telemedicine & Patient Data Access: Pandemically Perfect Together

For the last 5 years, telemedicine has been predicted to be the key to transforming health care. COVID19 gave the understudy a coveted, centerstage role, removing more red tape in a matter of weeks than in the last 5 years.

With many states practicing social distancing and sheltering at home, caregivers, patients, and carepartners needed to rapidly pivot and adjust to ensure continuity of care.

In hotspot areas, such as in NJ and NY, health care providers escalated telemedicine implementation efforts to deploy virtual care on the scale of weeks. Many doctors, nurses, and caregivers received some version of training to prepare them to deliver high-quality care virtually. Training may have included aspects of using various technology platforms and equipment, communication skills, documentation, time management, scheduling, and new payment workflows. The American Medical Association (AMA) released their AMA Telehealth Implementation Playbook to help support caregivers and practices in expediting the scaling of telemedicine. Cleveland Clinic shared a COVID19 Response Digital Playbook with resources on implementing a rapid implementation plan for virtual care.

One can’t help but wonder, where is the training and support for successful patient and carepartner rapid implementation and use of telemedicine?

John Sharp, MSSA, PMP, FHIMSS, Director, Thought Advisor of Personal Connected Health Alliance and HIMSS published A Patient’s Guide to Telemedicine as a strong start.

Aside from the basic technological learning and adoption curve, patients need to be coached through how to best prepare for their virtual encounters. The strongest way to start is by reviewing one’s medical records. In general, people should proactively request a copy of their medical records from their doctor or hospital, especially if the case of chronic illness, multiple comorbidities, or a life-altering diagnosis, such as cancer. During this pandemic, accessing one’s medical records to understand your health, to prepare for emergencies, and to make informed, educated decisions about your care during times of uncertainty has never been more important.

Patients need access to their medical records to be proactively prepared for their virtual encounter. Carepartners can help play a significant role in coordinating care by helping with accessing and reviewing medical records.

Medical records hold important details to your health journey. Use them to your personal advantage! They’re yours! Carefully create a basic timeline of your medical history and key health information. Use your records to prepare for appointments and healthcare encounters as if they were a business meeting. Proactive preparation, as a means of emergency preparedness, can be a matter of life or death. The Office of the National Coordinator (ONC) for Health Information Technology (HealthIT) has resources on how to access and use medical records.

Use your medical records to answer these questions & discussion points in preparation for your telemedicine appointment: 

  • What are your diagnoses & when did they roughly start?
  • Do you have a family history of any health conditions?
  • Do you have any concerning symptoms you would like to discuss?
  • What are the names and contact information of the main doctors that you see regularly, for example, your primary care doctor, your oncologist, your cardiologist?
  • Are you currently being treated with any medication? If so, what medications do you regularly take, what dose, and how often, for both prescription & over-the-counter (OTC) medications?
  • Do you have any allergies? How serious is your allergic reaction? Do you carry an Epipen?
  • What is the name of your pharmacy? Where is it located? Phone number?
  • Have you had any surgeries? If so, when?
  • What are you most worried about at this moment?
  • Do you have an advance directive? If so, do you have it on file at your local hospital and with your doctor(s)?
  • Does your family know your end-of-life wishes in the event of an emergency, such as hospitalization for COVID19?
  • Who is your emergency contact? Name, relationship, and contact info?

If you do not speak English or there’s limited English proficiency (LEP), note you’ll need a translator or have a plan as to who will be a make-shift translator in the event of an emergency.

If you are handicapped, have a disability, or need accessible services, this must be noted &conveyed. There are many tools that can help.

In order for telemedicine to be successful for the health system/caregiver side AND for patients/carepartners, patients will need to have their medical records ready as a reference. Don’t assume your patient portal has everything you need. Login and check it out before your telemedicine appointment! Every telemedicine guidance and training should prioritize emphasizing patient data access to their health record and information.

Health systems and care providers would benefit from streamlining their internal records request and patient data access workflows to best support telemedicine adoption, scalability, and sustainability, as well as patient engagement, patient safety, and continuity of care.

Contact us to learn more about how to use Unblock Health as your digital solution for medical records and patient data access workflow transformation to best support your telemedicine efforts.

Yours in Unblocking Health,

Shahid Shah and Grace Cordovano


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