Technology aims to make health care accessible

Need to access your medical records? There's an app for that.

The new MyChart phone application and website, launched in June, is giving Scott & White Healthcare patients easier access to their personal health information—one way technology is helping Central Texans become better connected to their health care providers. Physician inquiries, test results and prescription refill requests can all be done using the new program, helping to break down many perceived barriers, said Dr. Rob Watson, Scott & White chief medical officer.

Instead of doctors playing phone

tag with patients, Watson said each

side can now communicate on their own schedule.

"It's always been strange to me that patients can't access their own records. Now it's more transparent for them," he said. "This breaks down those barriers."

Such patient portals are still relatively rare, Watson said, but improved technological advances are making the health care industry more relevant in patients' everyday lives. For example, Seton Healthcare's telemedicine program has been connecting patients remotely with physicians for the past five years.

Seton contracts with Austin ISD to provide child psychiatry services immediately after any issue arises at school, telemedicine Program Manager Bryan Henry said.

"Hospitals are taking a much different view on how to provide care to communities," Henry said. "Traditionally, it was within the four walls of the hospital. Now we take a more active role using technology."

Telemedicine is particularly useful in preventing chronically ill patients from being admitted repeatedly to a hospital by using biometrics that remotely monitor the patient's weight and other health factors. Henry said the goal is to create a telehealth network allowing health care providers to share information.

Technology can also help make health care safer, as with the new program at Cedar Park Regional Medical Center that better tracks prescription medication. The electronic medication administration program—or EMAP—syncs patients electronically with their proper medications and doses and cross-references prescriptions to ensure patients do not take medications that are not meant to interact, CPRMC CEO Brad Holland said.

"This takes the human element out of medicine and makes it more standardized," he said.

Other area health care providers are combining new and existing technologies to better connect with patients, including Lone Star Circle of Care, which on Aug. 16 unveiled a new 20,000-square-foot Member Navigation Center in Austin.

The center handles all appointment scheduling, reminders and follow-ups through a 52-employee call center.

"It's about being proactive," said Dr. Tamarah Duperval-Brownlee, chief medical officer for LSCC, "and helping a patient to actually get what they need."

By Joe Lanane
Joe Lanane’s career is rooted in community journalism, having worked for a variety of Midwest-area publications before landing south of the Mason-Dixon line in 2011 as the Stillwater News-Press news editor. He arrived at Community Impact Newspaper in 2012, gaining experience as editor of the company’s second-oldest publication in Leander/Cedar Park. He eventually became Central Austin editor, covering City Hall and the urban core of the city. Lanane leveraged that experience to become Austin managing editor in 2016. He managed eight Central Texas editions from Georgetown to San Marcos. Working from company headquarters, Lanane also became heavily involved in enacting corporate-wide editorial improvements. In 2017, Lanane was promoted to executive editor, overseeing editorial operations throughout the company. The Illinois native received his bachelor’s degree from Western Illinois University and his journalism master’s degree from Ball State University.


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