MyChart is making an impact, but more sign-ups are needed

Meaningful use will require practices to enroll more patients

Matthew Ellman, MD, and Hillary Marino discuss their progress with the EMR. Their practice, Yale Internal Medicine Associates, was the first Yale Medical Group practice to go live.

MyChart, the Epic electronic medical record program that allows patients to quickly view their health information, make appointments, fill prescriptions and communicate with providers, went live in October 2011. Since then more than 14,000 Yale Medical Group (YMG), Yale New Haven Health System and community practice patients have signed up, and the free service is now accessible at almost all YMG practices.

“Patients tell us they love it,” said Timothy Cooney, the web solutions coordinator for the Epic project. “While there might have been some initial reluctance on the part of providers to adopt the technology, most have adapted quite nicely to it. Now we need them to go a step further and begin to sign up more of their patients.”

At present, only a minority of YIMA and other Yale Medical Group patients have signed up for online access, but Cooney expects the numbers to grow rapidly with a major educational and marketing push in the coming months to enroll as many people as possible. Increased use of tools that enable patients to communicate electronically with their providers is mandated under the provisions of the federal government’s Stage II Meaningful Use requirements for the EMR. “Getting the majority of people on MyChart will help us meet one of the core Stage II objectives,” said Cooney.

YIMA: Extra work is paying off

Yale Internal Medicine Associates (YIMA) was the first YMG practice to go live with Epic and there are now 1,300 YIMA patients signed up for MyChart. “It’s made a positive difference in three areas,” said YIMA Director Matthew S. Ellman, MD. “MyChart has improved the quality and speed of communication between providers and patients, helped some people become more engaged in their own medical care and, at times, improved access to care.”

Dr. Ellman stressed, however, that these benefits often require additional staffers to field and respond to the MyChart messages that arrive in Epic’s InBasket. At YIMA, which opted to have the application send messages directly to providers, it has also meant extra work, although not as much as originally feared.

“We’ve had to do additional patient education about what’s appropriate to address through MyChart, which can take 48 to 72 hours for a response,” Dr. Ellman explained. “It’s a very efficient way to deal with questions of a general nature." However, MyChart communications are not intended for urgent or emergent care, and a patient experiencing a symptom such as chest pain should still be advised to call 911.

Employees who are also Yale Medical Group patients can learn more about MyChart by visiting the Yale Medical Group Website and clicking on the MyChart button.