Public input sought on state health portal
State project would ease records access
CAPITAL REGION New Yorkers are being called to the Internet to help shape the look of a new online service that will serve as an access point for their health care records.
The “Patient Portal for New Yorkers” is being developed by the New York eHealth Collaborative, a nonprofit group founded in 2006 in partnership with the state Health Department.
Funded by state and federal grants, NYeC serves as the axis of the state’s health care information technology. Its purpose is to ensure patients have fast and secure access wherever they are to their health records, according to its website, www.nyehealth.org.
In anticipation of the system’s 2014 launch, NYeC held a contest for developers to design how the portal looks and operates. New York residents will get a chance to vote on their favorite at http://patientportalfornewyorkers.org starting Saturday and continuing through April 23.
First-, second- and third-place selections will be chosen based on user friendliness, format and design. Firms with the most votes will give public presentations on their proposals in late April and early May.
NYeC Executive Director David Whitlinger said Thursday the portal as envisioned won’t serve as a massive repository but rather as point of access. Records themselves will be stored by individual health care providers and the system will provide access to those records based on selections patients make online.
With the potential to access health care information for millions of New Yorkers, the system is expected to be one of the largest community- and public utility-styled systems, Whitlinger said.
He said there are various reasons why patients would want to access their health records. One example, he said, is people receiving test results and forgetting what their cholesterol reading was, or seeking to monitor their progress battling chronic diseases. Others suffering from acute conditions, he said, are “carting around boxes of records.”
The system would allow those patients — and, if they so choose, their doctors — to access those records right on the Internet. Access will be based on consent; patients, through the portal, will select who can see their information. The selection could include a life partner, a primary care physician or facility, or emergency staff in the event of a life-or-death situation.
Another reason people might need their medical information is if they get into an accident and require immediate medical attention. The portal would give health care providers in other parts of the state access to critical information on allergies or conditions.
The project itself will cost roughly $500,000, Whitlinger said. He said New York state has been at the forefront when it comes to establishing privacy, security and data use policies for health care information.
The long-term vision is to have a connection for these systems nationwide so information can be sent across state lines if need be, said Rachel Block, deputy commissioner for the office of health information technology transformation. An expansion of this would be especially useful for New Yorkers who spend the winter elsewhere, she said.
“It will all become possible once we figure out how to connect the entire nation,” Block said.
Once operational, the new system will also help doctors comply with new federal rules that are currently providing incentives for physicians to make records available to patients electronically. Block said those incentives will eventually turn to fines for those who don’t comply, and the Patient Portal for New Yorkers will make the compliance possible.