By ALEX HOLLOWAY
OCH Regional Medical Center is using technology to improve patient experience through two newly-launched online patient portals.
OCH Director of Marketing Mel Thurlow said the portals will, among other things, allow patients to set up accounts to more easily access some of their medical information.
“The benefits of this are that patients can securely send and receive messages to communicate with their physicians or set up appointments,” she said. “They can request prescription refills and view any tests or lab results they might need to see. It does a lot to bring the information to the patient and make everything more convenient for them.”
Patients can click the hospital’s website, http://www.och.org/. From there, they can access the portals through the “Patient Portals” link at the top right of the page or a patient portals tab further down the right side.
The portals will allow patients to access their medical information for OCH or any OCH-owned clinic. OCH Chief Information Technology Officer and Director of Information Technology Services Chamath Wijewardane said the hospital-clinic split was as far as information would divide for patients — any OCH-owned clinic will have medical information available for customers through the clinic tab, and any records at the hospital itself will be available to patients through the OCH tab.
“Typically hospitals that own clinics end up with two patient portals, one for the hospital and one for the clinics,” Wijewardane said. “All our clinics use the software and the hospital uses a different piece of software. Hospital software really doesn’t work well in a clinic and clinic software doesn’t work well in a hospital. At the end of the day, those packages are integrated, but for the patient, they’re separate.”
To register, patients need to provide an email address to registration staff at the hospital. From there, patients will receive an email from email@example.com for the OCH-owned clinic portal or firstname.lastname@example.org for the OCH portal with instructions to create login information and gain access to their records.
Wijewardane described the process as an easy one but said sign-up was not automatic, due to manual verification needs on the hospital’s end.
“So my name is Chamath Wijewardane — there’s probably only one in the state of Mississippi,” he said. “The computer actually identifies this and says ‘OK, this is the one we think it is.’ But just in case there’s a more common name, we want to make sure the computer doesn’t accidentally associate it. In our case, we don’t want that a John gets another John that’s actually somebody else. We want somebody to see that the computer did match it so we can say yes or no and be sure.”
Wijewardane said patients can not only view the portals on computers and also on mobile devices. He said both portals worked on tablets, though the OCH portal may not be desirably sized for smartphones. He said the clinic portal has a working in-browser mobile website and patients can also use the Follow My Health Mobile app to access it.
Thurlow said the portals also allow patients to set up proxy accounts for children or dependent adults if needed.
“It empowers patients to take a more active role in their health and wellbeing by providing them easy and convenient access to health information,” she said. “And through empowering patients, it helps us fulfill a part of our mission.”
With the portals’ launch, OCH is taking a step that many hospitals in Mississippi have yet to — it’s one of the first hospitals in the state to launch a portal system.
“We are one of the early adopters of all this technology,” Wijewardane said. “We’ve done a lot of things for a mid-size 96-bed hospital. I think we can be comfortable in saying we’re an early adopter in technology and have a lot of cool stuff for a 96-bed hospital.”