My thoughts on the upcoming NYS patient portal

All content on this blog reflects my own opinions and not necessarily that of my affiliations.

I am really excited for the NYS patient portal and as are many people who I have spoken to in the last few months. You can see people’s eyes light up at the exact moment they realize the implications of a connected statewide network, “that is HUGE!”, they say. Or well…they also say “this is a long time coming” and “hey, will this be national?”. They also tell you stories about visits to various hospitals and doctors offices.
So why is it so important? Why is it so monumental? Why didn’t this happen sooner? Why isn’t it national?
Why is it important? Why is it monumental?
I think it’s important because as a patient, medical information often feels like this esoteric thing that is sometimes hard to obtain.You rarely get to see your information unless you requested copies and that was a process in and of itself. You have to get the medical release form either by fax or go directly to an office and sometimes you have to work certain hours and can’t make it and sometimes the fax machine doesn’t work and sometimes the papers can’t be found and sometimes the copier jammed and sometimes the receiving office never received them. Then for many people, there is difficulty reading the medical jargon or reading the information period (insert doctor’s handwriting joke).
Since the portal will be digital, it will be available 24/7. That puts things on YOUR time schedule. It also will be portable -you will be able to access your information from pretty much anywhere with an internet connection. Also because most records will be in print, it will automatically be legible.
Besides the ease of access to the information, I think that it will help improve the lives of patients. I think of it as a doorway to their information. Knowlege is power and I think of it as a great tool for patient empowerment because all of their information will be in one place and they can see and document their progress in real time and over time. Above all, patients will be able to see trends for themselves and potentially take action on what they see.
As a physician, I love the idea of a patient portal. We only see patients for short periods of time, sometimes even only once a year or ummmm once every few years due to re-location and more frequently, insurance changes. You the patient are with yourself every single day. I am only one scene or potentially a recurring character or hopefully a helpful coach/partner in the movie of your life. I also may be one among a few MD’s you are currently seeing and the portal serves as a hub of information that puts you at the center of it all.
I think that the portal will be very helpful when seeing new patients in the outpatient setting in terms of getting a quick snapshot of who you are, and potentially helping to save your life in an emergency situation or in the event you are unable to speak to me. Also seeing the information yourself helps you help me verify information and change anything that is inaccurate. Having been an adult caretaker and babysitter in the past, I know how important it is to be able to have records, especially allergies and medication lists.
What I also hope for is that people will also use the portal as an opportunity to upload documents like health care proxies, emergency contact information and living wills. I can’t emphasize how important having such information ahead of time is because it helps me act in accordance with your wishes and also eases the pain that friends and family members feel when having to make a decision for you…especially if they are not sure… It’s the kind of pain and anguish that breaks your heart…
Why didn’t it happen sooner?
I think that the technology just wasn’t there yet in a critical mass kind of way. It’s only been in the last few years that almost everyone has a computer or a smartphone or tablet/ipad of some sort. I also think that the health care and health tech ecosystem as it is now is more open and collaborative than before; it’s a really interesting time to be in healthcare because we are in a point in time where what we do will affect the future of generations to come.
Why isn’t it national?
I think that it will be in my lifetime. I think that there are many great systems out there and I think that this atmosphere of collaboration and innovation will persist for some time, because simply, it must. We can’t continue to operate in such a high cost, marginal outcome, disconnected kind of way. I also think that it is something that people frankly will refuse to accept.
I also think that time is needed to pilot such an undertaking, to work out the kinks and bugs and to see what works and what needs to be scrapped before something is released in such a broad scope.
Why am I so passionate about a NYS patient portal? Why did I decide to take the risk of working with a small startup, like Mana Health?
Because the reason I became a doctor was because I wanted to help people. I think that being a part of this, being in the milieu of it all, is a way that I can help patients on a larger scale. I promised myself that I would use my time off wisely and that anything I learned I would bring back to my profession to help people. I was actively looking for tools that would help  patients and help me be a better doctor in a one-on-one setting and at a systems level, and if I couldn’t find something I really liked, I wanted to help develop it in some way. “Be the change you want to see in the world” is a quote that resonates with me and I wanted to be that change by helping to build something great.
I am also a native New Yorker and participating is a way of paying it back and paying it forward. This city, this state, helped me become who I am today. I went to public school my entire life. I went to P.S. 236 in Mill Basin, CIG at Andries Hudde IS 240 in Brooklyn, and Stuyvesant High School in Manhattan. In terms of my medical education I went to a CUNY school, the Sophie Davis School of Biomedical Education and graduated from SUNY Downstate Medical school and completed residency at Lenox Hill in Manhattan. From 18 to 28, I learned so much and was given amazing opportunities. I learned how to write a community health assessment. I was able to work in outpatient, inpatient, and critical care settings all over the city and met so many people, from all different walks of life and reflective of the melting pot that is New York. I also was able to actively see patients and go out into the community to teach and participate in health fairs.
I have been taught by amazing teachers, attendings and patients and what I have learned from them I carry with me. I also carry my memories and experiences of New York with me.
In thinking about the portal, I thought about my friends, my family, patients I’ve seen and the people I see every day. I thought about the guy who works at my laundromat, the bus boys at restaurants, the moms and dads you see playing with their kids in the park, the elderly ladies I have met on line at a few live talk shows, new immigrants, and all the people I ride the train with. How would they use a portal? How could it be customized to better serve their needs? What information is critical for them to have in an emergency situation? What information would I like to have as a doctor on the receiving end? These are all questions that come to mind.
Besides the immediate future and immediate needs, I also think about the long-term. This is something that will be a legacy to our children and grandchildren and what a better legacy than an ecosystem that is open, collaborative and focuses on networks and community?
I am excited for what’s come. It may not be a perfectly smooth ride, but it’s definitely one worth taking.

2 thoughts on “My thoughts on the upcoming NYS patient portal

  1. Pingback: How A Small #Digitalhealth #Startup won a Statewide Contract (and the T-shirt Story ;) #NewYork #tech | Just curious...

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