myHealth eLink Popularity Grows with Patients
Riverside-crafted Online Resource Meets CMS Meaningful Use Criteria
Riverside team members provide care in many ways, and our patient portal offers easy access for our patients. Riverside is innovative and willing to customize what we do to serve patients. For more than 10 years, Riverside Health System has offered myHealth eLink, an online patient portal.
Recently, Riverside earned a designation for meaningful use certification by adapting their patient portal, myHealth eLink, to meet the criteria set by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) and the Affordable Care Act. This is a unique achievement for a health system, the kind typically given to software developers.
"Our portal is homegrown, to meet the requirements of CMS but also our health system needs," said Dr. Charles Frazier, Chief Medical Information and Innovation Officer and the developer of the Riverside patient portal. "We created the portal 10 years ago because we knew that electronic access for patients was important. We were one of the first health systems in the country to introduce this valuable communication tool between a patient and their provider."
Rather than purchasing a software solution, Riverside crafted its own. "It's unique for a health system to act as a vendor, and while we could sell this software to other health systems, we won't. We want to keep it proprietary for the benefit of our patients and customized solely for the Riverside Health System," said Jim Foss, Director of Information Services/Physician Services.
Through myHealth eLink, Riverside Medical Group practices can use secure electronic messaging to communicate with patients on relevant health information, and provide patients the ability to view online, download and transmit their health information within days.
Riverside's patient portal fits the company's overall philosophy of designing care around the patient. Riverside's interdisciplinary team approach, known as the Riverside Care Difference, focuses on the aspects that customers want most: safety, healing, kindness and respect. Patients view the portal as a convenient tool for communicating with their physician office and a valuable enhancement to existing in-office visits.
Riverside has a long history of technology innovation, such as beginning to use electronic medical records more than 18 years ago. Numerous projects have led to Riverside Health System being named a "Most Wired" health system for nine years in a row by Hospitals and Health Networks magazine. Riverside was among the first in the nation to implement this kind of online resource, and the first in Virginia to meet the first phase of Meaningful Use in 2011.
In the early days of myHealth eLink, the early adopters of the portal tended to be more technology savvy users, and it was intimidating to some people.
"Some patients were just intimidated by the technology and said, 'I don't do computers' or 'I'm not good with computers.' Providers were concerned that it was 'another mailbox to check' or that patients would inundate staff with messages," said Dr. Frazier. "But once providers and staff realized how it reduces phone calls and automatically documents patient interactions, they saw the benefit and it has not overwhelmed practices. In fact, it's been a valuable tool."
Since the beginning of 2014, RMG practices sent more than 10,000 myHealth eLink messages, and received more than 8,000 indicating a robust uptake from each side of the communication link. Of those messages received, most were questions, but others were prescription renewals, appointment requests and requests to change information. Today, the number of subscribers is over 56,000.
"Overall, I'm pleased that we are trying to meet the needs and desires of our patients, who are our customers. Technically, I am proud that it is so tightly integrated with the electronic medical record. I am also proud that we have been certified for Meaningful Use, Stage 2, that's a real accomplishment for the system," Dr. Frazier said.
"It's easy to overlook communication technology among all that we do to serve our patients, but making it easier for them to engage with their providers, spend less time on paperwork and phone calls and know that they can reach us when it's convenient for them, makes a difference," continued Dr. Frazier. "Empowering our patients drives directly to the Riverside Care Difference and to our Riverside mission: To care for others as we would care for those we love - to enhance their well-being and improve their health."
Published: March 6, 2014