Jennifer is a soon-to-be new mom. But it took her and her husband a while to get to this point.
They experienced a miscarriage and a failed fertility attempt before a successful fertility treatment. She had just gotten pregnant with her now-almost-due baby when she learned about Sunnybrook’s MyChart – a personal health record system – at what she calls “a very important time.”
“When you’re pregnant you do a lot of testing, and before MyChart I wasn’t getting my health information the way I wanted to,” she says.
With MyChart, patients log into a secure, online system and have access to a wealth of their own personal and clinical health information: test results, lab reports, doctors’ notes, medical imaging, as well as upcoming appointment details; conveniently located in one place.
For Jennifer, it’s been a “game-changer.”
“Even just with the simple things, it’s been so useful,” she says.
She cites a visit to her obstetrician-gynecologist, who was having trouble locating Jennifer’s ultrasound imaging.
“I already had my report. I literally showed her on my phone,” says Jennifer. “I’m sure she had the information, but it was also a busy clinic day. Having access to these records saved us both a lot of time,” she says.
Maureen Reilly is also a MyChart user, as well as a respiratory therapist in Sunnybrook’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU).
Maureen used the application often when receiving treatment for breast cancer. She found such value in the tool that she often encourages NICU parents to sign up.
“It’s been really helpful for NICU parents. Babies are born at Sunnybrook, but then may be transferred to a community hospital, and after that they will have a paediatrician. These other health-care providers are then able to have access to the information that’s in MyChart, including the baby’s medical imaging, lab results and referral letters,” she says.
Maureen’s experience with electronic health records – both as a patient and health-care provider – gives her a unique perspective on the benefits of access to electronic health records.
For example, she has found the tool to be helpful in breaking down language barriers in health care. For people who do not speak English, or who speak English as a second language, access to personal medical records can be invaluable.
“Sometimes people are embarrassed to ask detailed questions, or to tell their health-care teams that they don’t understand,” says Maureen. “Electronic records allow these patients to understand their health-care on their terms. They can show the records to a trusted friend or family member, who can read the doctors notes and test findings to them,” she says.
Even for people who do read and speak English fluently, access to electronic health records can help these patients and their family members better understand their illnesses and treatments.
“It’s very comforting,” says Persefoni Tzortzidis, who used MyChart to access her husband’s personal health records during his experience with cancer.
“A lot of times when these things happen you feel really lost, and don’t understand what’s happening… [With MyChart] I wasn’t left out of the loop, and I was able to examine step-by-step what my husband was going through and explain it to him in a knowledgeable way,” she says.
Giving patients access to their own health records allows them to be in the driver’s seat – which, to Jennifer, creates a “more proactive health-care experience.”
“It puts me in charge of my own health, and there’s a confidence aspect to that,” she says.
“It has opened up conversations; it’s changed my health care experience.”