Ethos Ho, BSc Pharmacy Candidate
A Portal to the Future
If you’ve been keeping up with the news regarding Alberta Health, you may have heard that they are close to completing a decade-long project that began in 2008. This ambitious project revolves around creating a patient portal that enables electronic access for all Alberta citizens to their electronic health record.1 Not only will this patient portal increase the ease of access to patients’ health information, but it will also help in addressing some of the gaps in the healthcare system.
What do I have to do to access my health record?
Most of us today probably don’t carry a full record of our medical conditions, medications, allergies, and immunization history in our pockets. And it’s likely that we don’t always remember all this information either. In any case, if you run into a situation where you need to gather your health history, you’ll need to request a copy of your health record. At present, there are three ways to do this:2
- You can see your family physician or pharmacist and ask to view or receive a copy of your health record. You may be required to fill out a “Request to Access Health Information” form and pay a $25 processing fee.
- If you recently received treatment in an Alberta Health Services (AHS) Hospital, you may request a copy of your health record from AHS by contacting Alberta Health Services Health Information Management.
- Your final option is to request a copy from Alberta Health. For this option, you must complete a “Request to Access Health Information” form and pay a $25 processing fee.
These are your current options if you require a copy of your comprehensive health record. From the get-go, it’s evident that this process could be seen as inconvenient, impractical, and lengthy. Also, most would probably agree that it’s unfair to have to pay for your own health information. With the development of the patient portal, patients will have their health records at their fingertips and would not need to undergo a lengthy request process.
How would patient portal benefit us?
Along with patient convenience, the project also highlights how the trajectory of healthcare is moving towards centralization of health information. A big advantage of centralization is that it will ensure critical health information is not lost and will “move” with the patient regardless of where they are in Alberta. This becomes especially important for patients who have many healthcare professionals involved in their care. Individuals could easily show healthcare providers their comprehensive health history on their phone or a computer, making their health visits more efficient and less frustrating.
Some exciting features of the patient portal include:1,3
- A medical appointment booker.
- Medical and medication history.
- Allergy history.
- Access to lab results (such as tracking cholesterol levels).
- Ability to see X-ray scans
- Ability to upload data from Windows-enabled medical devices (such as blood pressure and blood glucose)
Of course, being such an ambitious large-scale project, there have been delays with the project which had a prospective launch date of 2017 last year. Some of the most significant challenges with implementation have been compatibility issues with mobile phones and security of the portal.1
The Bottom Line
The Alberta Patient Portal will empower patients to take charge and understand their health. With greater ease of access to information, patients and care providers will benefit from more efficient consultations and more informed clinical decisions. The future of healthcare will grant more independence and access to all Albertans.
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