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Patient portals to help NNY residents access their health records

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Access to health care has been difficult for many north country residents, but access to their records doesn’t have to be.

That is what Dr. Steven L. Lyndaker of Lowville Medical Associates has been working toward throughout the past eight years with an electronic medical record system.

“I think the benefits from that, from my standpoint, were front-office efficiencies with scheduling and messaging,” he said Tuesday.

The move from paper to electronic records has resulted in no loss of charts or necessary information, Dr. Lyndaker said.

Through electronic medical records, he said, patient information is more organized and is readily accessible. A secure line, which also has a backup, helps provide information directly to patients via online patient portals. Dr. Lyndaker said many electronic medical record vendors have developed patient portals in which each provider office has a website and patients can log in with a secure password.

Once they’re logged in, they have access to much of their chart. Laboratory results and other information are available, including clinical summaries of office visits.

Dr. Lyndaker said patients can check doctors’ notes and requirements before their next visit.

“I’ve really tried to focus a lot of that piece into a care plan and giving them access to the database I use so they have an organized health file,” he said. “I’ve gotten really glowing feedback from patients. People want to access their chart, and some people use it for secure messaging and we can send one back.”

Patient portals are starting to come into Jefferson, Lewis and St. Lawrence counties. Increasing patient access to records would not be possible without many providers’ status as patient-centered medical homes, as part of the North Country Health Information Partnership.

The partnership is a collaboration of hospitals and physicians who have or will implement an electronic medical records and health information exchange to improve care for patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. The effort is made possible through a $6,676,804 HEAL NY Phase 10 grant awarded in fall 2009 to the Fort Drum Regional Health Planning Organization.

The patient-centered medical home model has a patient’s primary care doctor acting as the central hub for everything affecting the patient. This allows the primary care doctor to quickly and efficiently find out if the patient has been admitted to a hospital and if follow-up care is needed.

Standards of the certification include appropriate use of charting tools to track patients and organize clinical information, adaptation to patients’ cultural and linguistic needs, and systematic tracking of referrals and test results.

Corey M. Zeigler, information technology program manager for the planning organization, said a $900,000 grant from the federal Health Resources and Services Administration has helped multiple providers become a part of the information technology network.

Now that those funds have helped connect 32 primary care providers, three speciality practices, two urgent care clinics and five hospitals in a 40-mile radius surrounding Fort Drum, Mr. Zeigler said, the planning organization will focus on adding more providers to the network, one category at a time. The next to be added will be pediatrician and obstetrician-gynecologist practices. The more providers that are connected, the more easily accessible the patients’ records become.

With help from the Primary Care Development Coalition, the planning organization has created patient-centered medical homes for about 160,000 patients in the north country. According to a news release issued by the planning organization, the Fort Drum region now boasts 19 percent of the highest level and 71 percent of the midlevel recognized rural providers nationally located in a Health Provider Shortage Area.

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