My Name is Seth Davis and I am the business manager here at Pediatric Physicians, PC. Earlier this year we made a change in our electronic medical record (EMR) system. Among the top criteria for selecting our new vendor were: system security and stability, increased electronic interfaces between healthcare providers, and the addition of features that our patients and families wanted. We selected AthenaHealth as our new partner.
For the past 13 years, we had housed an on-site server which contained all of our medical software and patient protected health information (PHI) data. Our move to our new EMR was a very conscious decision to reduce potential privacy violations for our patients by having all medical data moved out of our office and off of our network. We are a small business and take all of our patient’s privacy very seriously, but our ability to protect, both physically and electronically, an onsite server is much more limited than what our EMR partner can do. All traffic between our offices and their internal, wholly owned data center is secured. AthenaHealth exclusively works with medical offices, and they take HIPAA and patient privacy very seriously.
Many of the new features available were chosen because you, our patients, have asked for them. The patient portal allows for a secure messaging system between our patients and doctors that directly becomes part of the medical record. It adds the convenience of allowing our patients to schedule sick visits for the following day even after our offices have closed for the evening, and soon it will allow us to securely send documents out to patients such as camp forms or 3231 / 3300 forms needed for school in a secure way that we could not achieve via email.
The portal has added an easy new way for our patients to interface with us, but is not mandatory. If you would not like to utilize the patient portal there are several ways to stop any communications about it. You can always give either of our offices a call and let our receptionists know that you do not wish to use the portal and would like to stop receiving any emails about portal activity on your or your child’s account. You can also log into the patient portal, click on “My Profile”, then “My Notifications” and customize the way we send you notifications (phone, email, text message) for appointment reminders, office announcements such as closure for weather, and health reminders such as annual physicals.
We have no intention of moving to a phone tree system and we will always have our own receptionists answering the phones whenever you call us during business hours for scheduling, needing a nurse call, discussing billing questions, or anything else you need to discuss. You will also always receive a personal call from our clinical staff if your lab results do not come back normal or if the doctor feels they require an explanation or further care. We are not planning on replacing our staff with technology, but we are planning on continuing to use technology to better assist our staff with tedious tasks like appointment reminders so that they have more time to answer calls from our patients and work with our patients who are in our offices.
Several of our patients have inquired who else has access to their children’s PHI now with our new system, and the answer is essentially no one who did not already. We have direct interfaces through our EMR to Surescripts to send prescriptions to pharmacies which reduces errors from handwritten notes and reduces forgery in printed notes, but that is something we had in the past as well. We also have an interface to Quest and LabCorp which are the 2 labs that our patients could go to for blood work or other tests, and, again, this helps to reduce errors and prevents lost paperwork but is something we previously translated manually into an online portal for each lab. We have an interface to the Georgia Registry of Immunization Transactions and Services (GRITS) which is required to complete public school forms proving vaccination history, and this is also something we had in our previous system. CHOA has been working with athenahealth on an interface which will help with patient continuity of care between primary care doctors, specialists, and urgent care/emergency department visits and this has only recently gone live. We can currently disable our patient’s data from using Surescripts and instead print a prescription, however, in 2018 a new law will no longer allow us to print some prescriptions (Georgia and many other states are changing the way doctors send prescriptions to pharmacies as part of their response to the opioid crisis.)
I hope that this information has helped provide some clarity on both how we handle our patient’s PHI and our direction as your chosen pediatric practice. If you have questions on any of this, I can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.