BENNINGTON -- Southwestern Vermont Health Care has taken a major step in toward greater accessibility with the introduction of two new Web portals that will allow patients to access their medical records from their computers, smartphones, and tablets.

The portals, which can be accessed at svhealthcare.org/portals, will allow patients to perform tasks such as sending messages to their outpatient providers, checking their medical records and prescribed medications, and seeing their latest test results. In order to encourage participation in the new system, SVHC is giving away an iPad to a random user who registers and logs in to the service, according to communications director Kevin Robinson.

One of the portals is for patients of hospital services, such as inpatient stays and emergency visits. The other, said Robinson, is for patients of the Southwestern Vermont Medical Center's medical practices, such as primary care, general surgery, and more.

"The patient portal is the gateway to a new era of improved communication between patients and their medical providers," said Dr. Robert Schwartz, a primary care physician at the SVMC Northshire Campus, "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 our patients signed up.


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Once a user registers and logs in to the portal, they can view, download, and print their personal medical data, as well as check upcoming appointments, review medications and text results, and communicate with their doctors. According to Robinson, the system functions like any banking or travel website that patients might be used to using. According to the website, patients are not yet able to view and pay their hospital bills online, and there is no indication when and if that fuctionality will be added in the future.

Charles Still, medical informatics specialist at SVMC, emphasized that patients' information on these portals in highly secure. During the registration process, patients must submit personal information, including their date of birth, medical record number, and an email address. The email address must be associated with the patient's medical record before registration begins, and only one patient will be able to log in with each individual email address. In the case of couples or families who share an email address, according to the website's "frequently asked questions" section, only one family member will be able to access the portal with that address, and other emails will need to be provided to the hospital for the other family members, if they wish to access their records. According to Still, these precautions are just one step in a larger list of security features, including encryption of data and other defenses against hacking.

"By participating in the portal," said Dr. Chris Barsotti, an emergency medicine physician, "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. 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."

While SVMC is encouraging all patients to enroll in this new system, Barsotti and Schwartz both noted that patients will still be able to fill out a paper request form to view their records, as they have been able to do in the past.

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

For more information, contact the hospital's Medical Records Department, at 802-447-5687.

Derek Carson can be reached for comment at dcarson@benningtonbanner.com. Follow him on Twitter @DerekCarsonBB