Technology and Your Health
By Kerri Regan
You’ve developed a rash, so you consult Dr. Google – who is quick to reveal that you may have a rare and potentially deadly ailment.
But if there’s one guy who should always prompt you to seek a second opinion, it’s Dr. Google.
Technology has moved mountains in the healthcare field, but it can be tricky to find accurate, reliable information online. Symptom-checker apps and websites can be useful, especially with identifying simple health problems, but it’s the people in your healthcare team who are best equipped to solve your medical mysteries. Their years of education and practice simply can’t be matched by the latest mobile app.
Once that diagnosis has been delivered, however, technology can offer some of your most helpful, comprehensive resources, and it can help you and your family keep on top of your health history, even when you live far apart.
When someone is admitted to a North State hospital, he or she gains access to the patient portal, where they can log in and see their medications, lab results and vital signs from their visit. This information can be accessed any time, anywhere.
“It’s the first step in being able to share information and get it to the patient in a usable format,” says Mark Eliason, a clinical informaticist and nurse at Shasta Regional Medical Center.
Dignity Health (which includes Mercy Medical Center and St. Elizabeth Community Hospital) also offers an online center where patients can view health records, clinical summaries and lab results. They can also manage their appointments, message their healthcare team and securely transmit personal health information to their providers. Many other local health centers, such as Shasta Community Health Center and Hill Country Health and Wellness Center, offer similar services.
Technology can also provide access to medical specialists that Shasta County simply does not have. Using a computer or smart phone, a physician can “see” a patient from afar by using telemedicine – a huge benefit in rural areas that don’t have the diversity of healthcare providers that a metropolitan area has.
And the growing electronic Health Information Exchange allows doctors, nurses, pharmacists, other providers and patients to securely access and share medical information electronically, which can improve the quality and speed of care. Once the exchange reaches its fullest potential, medical office staff won’t have to dig through filing cabinets and patients won’t have to take their own records from appointment to appointment.
“If you’re injured in Chico and you’re transferred here to Redding, we will be able to share information with the other hospital immediately rather than waiting for them to fax paper copies,” Eliason says. “For patients with chronic illnesses, the Health Information Exchange will allow providers of care to have access to the patient’s records that will prevent duplication of tests and much faster service.”
This can also be helpful for long-distance family members who are trying to stay updated on their loved one’s condition.
The Shasta Network of Care (www.shasta.networkofcare.org) is another secure place to store your own health information online. The “My Personal Health Record” tab allows people to organize and store their health-related information, and the user can opt to share all or some of that information with others, such as physicians or family members. The Network of Care maintains a vast library of health information, and users can store articles and links that they have collected on the site. Message boards and support groups are also available for various health conditions.