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Dr. Trixie Gregoire says that using the e-health portal MyHealthNS has improved both her relationships with her patients and the care she provides.
MyHealthNS, the province’s online personal health record, gives Nova Scotians secure online access to their health information. The first tool of its kind in Canada, MyHealthNS allows Dr. Gregoire to connect with her patients, share specialists’ reports and lab and diagnostic imaging results electronically, and send messages.
Dr. Gregoire, a family physician in Halifax, first began using MyHealthNS during the province’s pilot program four years ago.
“The biggest concern I had when the pilot ended was that I would have to stop using it,” said Dr. Gregoire. “Thankfully, I’ve been able to use it ever since.”
More than 30 family doctors and 6,000 patients participated in the pilot project. One hundred per cent of the physician participants reported that sharing test results electronically was valuable or extremely valuable to their patients.
“I don’t auto-release my eResults – I review them first and then share them with my patients with comments included,” explained Dr. Gregoire.
It was the tool’s enhanced communication options that initially interested Dr. Gregoire, who believes communication is the foundation of good patient care.
“In my opinion, the messaging functionality is the most valuable. It allows me to do my paperwork and follow-up with patients in the early morning and late evening. My patients can read and respond when it’s convenient for them,” she said.
Her patients appreciate MyHealthNS, too.
“I worked in the health-care environment for more than 30 years,” says Ms. Betty Bouchie, a patient of Dr. Gregoire. “I believe the old way of paper reports and multiple office visits no longer works. I have been part of MyHealthNS from the beginning and realize the far-reaching potential of the tool.”
Ms. Janet Hull, another patient, says MyHealthNS makes her health care more convenient.
“I have a disease that requires me to monitor my blood periodically,” said Ms. Hull. “Previously, Dr. Gregoire phoned with my results, but had to fit that in during office hours. Now she takes care of it any time of day that works for her, and I can retrieve the information at my convenience.”
Dr. Gregoire and her patients also appreciate the tool’s e-messaging function.
“When I had a longstanding health issue, I was able to write to Dr. Gregoire and tell her about any changes,” said patient Ms. Christine Heggelin. “Within one message I had an answer and, if necessary, an appointment scheduled.”
Dr. Gregoire also uses the broadcast messaging function when she needs to communicate with her patients as a group.
“It’s really beneficial. For example, when we moved offices I sent one message to all of my patients. I also use it to advise patients when the clinic needs to close or if I’m taking a vacation,” said Dr. Gregoire.
To date, Dr. Gregoire has registered approximately 50 per cent of her patient population – about 765 patients. But getting them signed up took work.
“You feel like you’re telling the same story over and over,” she said. “When I first started, I collected patient emails and registered them later. Now I just do it in my office when I see them.”
She recommends registering patients when sending them for a test, because that’s when they will see the immediate value of the tool. It also helps to have handouts explaining MyHealthNS on hand, so that patients can take information away with them.
Dr. Gregoire says the effort is worthwhile.
“At times using MyHealthNS requires a bit more work, but overall I’m way more efficient. I’m actually faster with my paperwork now than I was before and my relationships with my patients are stronger,” said Dr. Gregoire.
“At least once or twice a week my patients tell me they love it,” she said.