Patient portals give access to medical info

BENNINGTON - A pair of new patient portals from Southwestern Vermont Medical Center gives patients of the hospital and its medical practices the ability to securely review their medical information online using a computer, smartphone, or tablet from anywhere in the world.

Using the new portals, accessible at, patients can perform common tasks, such as send a secure message to their outpatient provider, review parts of their medical record, look up the medications they've been prescribed, and see the results of recent tests. To encourage use of the new portals, the health system is giving away an iPad, drawn at random from users who register and log in to the new system.

"The patient portal is the gateway to a new era of improved communication between patients and their medical providers," explained Dr. Robert Schwartz, a primary care physician at the SVMC Northshire Campus, and physician informaticist for Dartmouth-Hitchcock Putnam Physicians. "The portal places the patient's medical information at their fingertips. We know that this kind of patient engagement improves health, which is why we're excited to get patients signed up."

The patient portal is actually two different portals, one for patients of hospital services, such as inpatient stays and emergency room visits. The other portal is for patients of SVMC's medical practices, such as primary care, allergy, general surgery, and many more.

Charles Still, medical informatics specialist at SVMC, emphasized that on both portals, the patient's information is kept highly secure. During the enrollment process, patients submit personal information that is cross-referenced against information in the medical records. This step protects unauthorized access of other people's records and is a key feature in a larger list of security precautions taken in the portal, including encryption of data and defense against hacking.

Once a user logs in, he or she can view, download, and print their own personal medical data. In each portal, patients can review parts of their medical record, look at upcoming appointments, review the medications they have been prescribed, and check the results of studies and tests. An important feature of the outpatient portal is the ability to send or receive secure messages. This will streamline communication with outpatient providers. The systems are web-based and function like many conventional websites, such as banking and travel sites.

"By participating in the portal, patients will gain a better understanding of their health overall, but especially about the current, active issues: what's going on now, how it's treated, medications, and so on. Patients who are informed and engaged in their care have the best prospects for recovery and health maintenance," said Dr. Chris Barsotti, an emergency medicine physician and physician informaticist. "This technology is about improving communication between patients and their physicians, and vice-versa. It gives us a way to stay in touch outside of the exam room and helps ensure that we stay focused on our shared goal of the patient's good health."

Although SVMC will be encouraging all patients to enroll in the new system, Schwartz and Barsotti added that patients can still make a paper request for their records as they have always done.

"These new systems are really about giving patients access to their medical information and the pro viders that are on their healthcare team," Schwartz added. "It will help us all in the long run."

Patients who are interested in learning more about the web portals or who wish to sign up for the patient portal can visit SVMC encourages everyone to sign up, view their medical records, and send a message to their providers.

SVMC is a full-service community hospital that is part of Southwestern Vermont Health Care (SVHC), an integrated health system serving Bennington and Windham Counties in Vermont and nearby communities in New York and Massachusetts. In addition to the hospital, SVHC consists of the Centers for Living and Rehabilitation, the VNA & Hospice of SVHC, the SVHC Foundation, and the SVMC Northshire and Deerfield Valley campuses. It also includes Dartmouth-Hitchcock Putnam Physicians, a multispecialty medical group operated in partnership with Dartmouth-Hitchcock.


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