MyChart: Supporting Patient Care & Research

MyChart, the Epic portal that allows patients to access portions of their medical record and communicate with providers, continues to gain momentum, with several hundred active providers and over 40,000 users as of March 3. Besides increasing patient satisfaction and fulfilling meaningful use requirements under the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act, MyChart has the potential to become a key support for health initiatives that will benefit patients.

The Department of Orthopaedics and Rehabilitation has embraced the adoption of MyChart and is aggressively recruiting patients to sign up. In most cases, patients are given an activation code after a clinic visit that enables them to enroll in MyChart, but there is no guarantee they will follow through. Orthopaedics takes a more proactive approach by enrolling patients during their office visits. “That made a huge difference,” said Jonathan Grauer, M.D. Many providers worry that MyChart’s ability to allow patients to communicate with providers electronically will translate into an avalanche of e-mails from patients; but according to Grauer, that hasn’t been the case. “We’re not seeing a huge change in the need for electronic correspondence, but there’s a lot of comfort in knowing you could contact us,” he said. The benefit of communicating via MyChart is that there is a record of the correspondence in the medical record which providers can easily reference if needed.

The idea behind the department’s push to enroll patients is to be able to perform outcome measures as more features come online. Orthopaedics has developed questionnaires that patients will complete regarding their health—both general and disease-specific—and that will be used as benchmarks to track their progress over time. “We would like every patient, for all of our interactions, to do this,” said Grauer. “It’s where medicine is going: patient-centric, responding to how patients rate themselves.” Instead of evaluating a patient on how an X-ray looks, for example, the concept is to evaluate patients on how they’re actually doing.

Having a large percentage of its patients enrolled in MyChart will allow the department to send the questionnaires to patients through the portal several days before their visit. There are also plans to have a kiosk in the clinic where staff members can assist those who haven’t completed the questionnaires beforehand. Grauer hopes this approach will become standardized across the health system. “In an ideal world, the health system would have the same overall health measure and then each department would administer its own disease-specific measure,” he said. This process will be feasible, however, only if patients actively use MyChart. Grauer is aggressive about enrolling patients because he didn’t want to tackle both initiatives at the same time.

Enrolling as many patients as possible in MyChart can also benefit research efforts. Future plans may include linking OnCore, Yale’s clinical research management system, to MyChart to facilitate recruitment for clinical trials, and utilizing MyChart for electronic data capture for patient-reported outcomes for quality-of-life studies and other research.