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University of Utah Health Care gives patients on-the-go access to medical records

A free app available for University of Utah Health Care patients to access their personal medical records made its debut Thursday, March 10, 2011.
A free app available for University of Utah Health Care patients to access their personal medical records made its debut Thursday, March 10, 2011.
Laura Seitz, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — No more anxiously waiting on hold for a doctor's office to make an appointment, refill a prescription, check test results or ask a question. All of that can now be done on-the-go.

MyChart — an iPhone, iPad, iTouch application that provides easy access to medical records — made its local debut Thursday, to anyone who is a patient within the University of Utah Health Care system of hospitals and clinics.

"We just view this as another opportunity to put the patients first in terms of care and to be able to provide additional services for patients that make receiving and monitoring their care more and more convenient," said Rob Lloyd, executive director for the U.'s ambulatory services and community clinics.

He said gone are the days of having to request a hard copy of medical records, as it can now be accessed electronically.

For the past 10 years, physicians within the university's health care system have been using an electronic medical record to organize patient information. In the past year, that information has been made accessible to patients online, and now, "we've gone from the computer to in my pocket," said Curtis Newman, U. Health Care information services director.

Anything entered into the electronic medical record resulting from an office visit or hospital stay can be accessed with the app, including test results, messages to and from a doctor or the clinic staff, a list of appointments (past and future), patient education, medication and allergy lists, immunization records, reminders for preventive care, and more.

In keeping with privacy laws, the information stays secure behind the university's firewalls and can only be accessed with a username and password set up by the patient on a personal device. The app can be downloaded for free, at the iTunes Store.

"It allows me to very conveniently access anything I want from my medical record," Newman said, adding that individuals can also receive permission from family members to access their records, specifically an elderly parent or dependents in their care.

"The core information that I need as a health care consumer is all right there in one convenient and attractive package," he said. "It is really consumer-friendly as apps go."

Privately owned, Wisconsin-based Epic Systems manages the MyChart software, which houses a third of the nation's medical records and is used by more than 20 organizations nationwide. The U. is the latest to join, providing the service free for patients who, according to Newman, have asked for added convenience in accessing their records.

The service encompasses all 11 of the U.'s community clinics located on the Wasatch Front and will soon include the system's 80 outpatient clinics statewide. Records from the University Medical Center are not available on the app just yet but more than 10,000 patients have already checked in.

Newman joked that the only thing left to do is facilitating a virtual doctor's office visit, and the folks at the U. are actually working on that. He said that doctors will soon be able to perform routine check-ups via video chat or a simple electronic exchange of questions and photographs.

"It's just the natural evolution for what we've looked at for patients," Newman said. "This is what they want."