The Empowered Patient
Whether you're a mother of toddlers, a caregiver for your parents, or a person living with diabetes, there is a good chance that a growing trend in online health services could simplify your life and improve the way you access healthcare.
From large medical groups such as Mayo Clinic and Kaiser Permanente to individual doctor's offices and hospitals, many healthcare providers now offer their patients a variety of online health tools. These services are often referred to as "e-Patient" services, a term that, depending on who you talk to, stands for "electronic patient" or "empowered patient." And in many ways, both are accurate.
Learn more about e-patient services.
One such industry leader is Palo Alto Medical Foundation (PAMF), where patients at any of its 91 medical groups can sign up for PAMFOnline. This secure Web-based health service gives patients the ability to:
- Communicate directly, via e-mail, with their doctor or a nurse
- Request and change appointments online
- Renew prescriptions online
- View test results
- View key components of their electronic health record
- Receive customized health information
- Sign on as proxies for their children's records, when applicable
Furthermore, patients can take advantage of all these services without leaving the comfort of their own home. This growing movement in personal healthcare is said to be creating empowered patients individuals who use these convenient services to simplify their lives and gain more control over their health and the health of their families.
Mike Cooper is a stroke survivor and an active user of PAMFOnline. Healthline sat down with Mike, a software company CEO, to learn how he is taking advantage of these online health services.
Tell us about your story and why you became a PAMFOnline user.
I had a stroke on Thanksgiving, 2003. My doctor at the time was extremely negative about my recovery. He said there would be no walking or driving, and he was very negative about my long-term health prospects. During that first year after my stroke, my family and I moved, and we decided to change our doctor, as well. We moved close to the Redwood Shores PAMF clinic, so I dropped in and had a physical with Dr. Albert Chan. I was very impressed with him. He said that he would do anything he could to help me regain my pre-stroke way of doing things. During that session I noticed a PAMFOnline folder and went home and decided to try it.
Learn how Dr. Chan uses PAMFOnline to provide better care to his patients.
Was PAMFOnline easy to learn?
It was extremely easy to learn and navigate, but maybe that's the software company CEO talking. I also sat in on one of the PAMFOnline group teaching sessions, and they were helpful. I think all the people at PAMF want to make the system easy to navigate for everyone.
What are the primary ways you use PAMFOnline?
I utilize pretty much all that PAMFOnline has to offer. Because I subscribe to the upgrade (for a nominal annual fee), I'm able to ask non-urgent medical advice from my doctor. This was particularly important after my stroke; it was a great way to communicate with Dr. Chan without scheduling an appointment. Even now, I still ask a variety of questions such as 'What shots are required for my visit to southern Africa?' or 'Should I receive a H1N1 vaccine?'
I also renew my prescriptions through the service. It's so easy; I just note which ones I need and where to pick them the up, and PAMFOnline does the rest. I also track my health history and change appointments very convenient.
What do you like best about online health services?
I think the best would be the ability to ask Dr. Chan non-urgent issues whenever I need to do so. He usually answers me within an hour.
What are the greatest benefits of this type of technology?
For me, the speed and convenience are the best benefits. It helps me to make my decisions quicker, and it saves the time of booking an office visit, driving down there, and waiting to speak to the Dr. Chan. Instead, I can log on and get an answer back in short order. If Dr. Chan is out of the office, someone else answers me. Plus, all the different doctors at PAMF (besides Dr. Chan, I have quite a few) have access to the same information.
Do you think it helps you to be a more informed patient?
Most definitely, I can track my historical health data and find it online anytime. Plus, because my access to Dr. Chan is so immediate by e-mail, I have no hesitancy to ask even a minor question. I think this leads me to a healthier lifestyle.