Hundreds of WMed Health’s Spanish-speaking patients now have access to their electronic health records in Spanish after a successful project that was launched by two enterprising students at the medical school.
As of September 1, Spanish speakers can access their electronic medical records through the Epic System Corp. MyChart in Spanish. With the enhanced accessibility, patients can schedule appointments, update medication lists, read peer-reviewed information about medical conditions, view lab results, update medication lists, pay bills, and enter insurance info in Spanish.
The enhanced accessibility is available to WMed Health’s more than 300 patients who primarily speak Spanish. These patients seek primary and specialty care, tallying 600 to 1,000 patient visits a year, according to Renee Brady, manager of Health Information Management at the medical school.
Spanish speakers have access to interpreters by phone when they visit WMed Health as a patient, but until now only had access to their electronic health records on MyChart in English.
“Historically, the Spanish primary community has a lot of barriers to access in care and in feeling comfortable talking about really sensitive topics with their provider,” said M4 Sorabh Singhal, who worked with M3 Andrew Lynch to make MyChart in Spanish a reality. “It’s difficult to fumble with an iPad interpreter in the clinic and be able to truly have a conversation about their health. With Spanish MyChart, they can track their health in a less stressful environment at home and be able to adequately put in medication information without feeling like they’re being put on the spot. These are things that our English-speaking patients do on a daily basis.”
Singhal and Lynch started the project while studying about health equity and taking Active Citizenship, a longitudinal program that combines community service with research and is taught by Cheryl Dickson, MD, MPH, the medical school’s associate dean for Health Equity and Community Affairs. Dr. Dickson served as a mentor to Singhal and Lynch on this project.
Singhal and Lynch discovered they both had a passion for health care access, coincidentally both having worked at Epic before starting medical school. Lynch had experience working on Epic’s technical team on outpatient and population health technology, and Singhal had experience working in implementation, specifically for cardiology software.
“Because of our experiences at Epic, we’re both passionate about health care technology and health care access,” Lynch said. “This was a good opportunity for us to put our past experiences to use and advocate for this to be turned on because we knew it was a need for the community.”
The students first met with leaders at the Family Health Center in Kalamazoo and showed them how they could activate the Spanish version of MyChart for free to better serve their patients who primarily speak Spanish. The Family Health Center agreed to the project, and their Spanish version went live in December 2019.
The two students later met with the electronic health record team at WMed Health and learned there was an interest in providing MyChart in Spanish, but that it was not a project already in progress.
“The numbers that we found highlighted there was a need in the community for people to have equitable access to the resources that their English counterparts had,” Singhal said.
Of WMed Health’s primarily Spanish-speaking patient population, only 17 percent currently are signed up for MyChart, Brady said.
“With the number of Spanish-speaking patients we have here and the fact that only 17 percent of them have MyChart, there’s definitely a language barrier there,” Brady said. “To be able to offer a great patient care tool to the Spanish-speaking population in language they can understand is very impressive.”
With Lynch and Singhal leading the project, Brady secured meetings with Bronson Methodist Hospital’s team that administers MyChart for WMed Health. Later, Brady and her team set up test sites and facilitated the rollout while Lynch and Singhal reached out to certified translators to accurately translate the webpages to Spanish. WMed’s chapter of the Latino Medical Student Association and especially M1 Daniela Pinto Payares, a certified translator, worked to provide accurate Spanish phrasing for the website and marketing materials.
“They did all of the legwork,” Brady said of the students. “They did all of the translations and they did incredible work with the team they had.”
Patients at WMed Health will learn about the expanded MyChart offering through patient communications and signage around the medical school’s clinics.
Offering MyChart in Spanish reduces a disparity, allows these patients to better navigate the health system and keeps them better informed, Dr. Dickson said. Throughout the whole project – from researching what was being done at other institutions to getting leaders on board and implementing the changes – Lynch and Singhal have persevered even when it wasn’t easy, Dr. Dickson said, and WMed Health patients will benefit.
“They had dedication, organizational skills, maturity and focus,” Dr. Dickson said. “They had to be able to balance what they were doing on this project with the demands of medical school. They had perseverance.”