Are you a patient at the WMed Clinics? Here’s everything you need to know about the electronic health record and the MyChart patient portal

"."In a move aimed at enhancing patient care and future quality improvement efforts, the WMed Clinics made the transition this month to the Epic electronic health record (EHR) system and the MyChart patient portal.

The transition began May 3 following months of training for physicians and staff at the WMed Clinics, located on the medical school’s Oakland Drive Campus, and the Psychiatry Clinic in the Borgess North Professional Building.

“The reason we’ve done this is we want to provide the highest quality care to our patients and we’ve put our money where our mouth is,” said Joseph D’Ambrosio, MD, the medical school’s associate dean for Clinical Affairs. “We think this is the first step in upping the game and providing higher quality care.”

Prior to the move to Epic and MyChart, Dr. D’Ambrosio said the WMed Clinics used the EHR eClinicalWorks. He said the transition to Epic will allow for more ease conducting data mining and retrieving information that will be used for quality improvement in the clinics.

Additionally, he said the transition to Epic by the WMed Clinics reduces the number of EHRs currently in use in Kalamazoo. Previously, he said as many as six different EHRs have been in use by different providers in the community and none of the EHRs “talk to each other.”

Now, with Epic, the WMed Clinics join Bronson Healthcare and the Family Health Center on the list of providers currently using the same EHR. What that means, Dr. D’Ambrosio said, is that the records of patients who are seen by the three providers will be readily and easily accessible to their physicians.

“It improves the continuity of care,” Dr. D’Ambrosio said. “It’s much easier to coordinate care and that’s really a prime example of what we need to do in primary care … We have patients with extremely complicated medical problems who get referred to some of the high-end tertiary care centers in the Midwest, including the University of Michigan, Cleveland Clinic and the Mayo Clinic.

“They’re all on Epic.”

With the MyChart patient portal, Dr. D’Ambrosio said patients are able to take a more active role in the coordination of their care and have easy access to some of their medical records and test results. They’ll also be able to easily pay medical bills, send messages to their physician and schedule appointments.

MyChart also gives physicians and the staff at the WMed Clinics the ability to send friendly reminders to patients when flu vaccines are available or when patients are due for important preventive care appointments, such as mammograms or colonoscopies.

“It’s good for the checks and balances that we need in health care,” Dr. D’Ambrosio said. “We are a patient-centered medical home so I think it promotes patients’ investment in their own health care. I can’t make patients change lifestyles and often lifestyle changes are the biggest and most important part of a healthier life. I think having these communication channels through MyChart engages patients in their own health care.

“An informed patient is a good patient and a healthy patient, and if they will look into MyChart, what patients will see is it is going to allow them to learn more about their own health care and it is definitely going to allow them to take better care of themselves, and I think that’s what patients want.”