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3 Reasons to Use the Online Patient Portal

Fast, reliable communication accessible 24/7 is only a click awaWhen you’re checking in for your eye appointment and we ask you for your email address, you probably wonder why.

In fact, if you’re anything like me, you’re going to remember all the times you were trying to buy something at a store and the clerk was doing his or her best to get you on some mailing list, thereby ensuring your days are forever filled with junk mail. So by now you have probably turned “no thanks” or even “I don’t have an e-mail” into an automatic response in pure self defense.

However, you’re going to want to rethink those instincts when it comes to your doctor’s office.

Why we ask for your email:

There have been some huge changes in the past few years with the way medical practices are run in the US. Chief among them is a federal program called “Meaningful Use,” which requires medical practices to stay current with the times (no more paper charts!) and use electronic health records effectively. This includes improving patient communication and health awareness by making sure that you, the patient, receive your health information in a timely and convenient manner. Which, of course, means using the most convenient invention of this age: the internet.

At North Cascade Eye Associates we follow this requirement by connecting you with your records via a secure online patient portal called NextMD. In fact, most medical practices have joined us in using electronic records and an online portal to connect their patients (though it might not be the same one as ours). Which means you’ll likely get email address requests in the future from all the medical professionals you see.

While that might seem annoying, it’s actually much more convenient than you’d think (and we don’t use your email for solicitation, or sell it. Promise!) And here are three more reasons you should do it:

1. It’s ridiculously easy.

If you give us your email address when you check in, you’ll get an email from us with a link to the patient portal and easy instructions for creating a username and password for yourself. But you don’t even have to have an appointment with us to sign up! At any time you can go here and sign yourself up without us. Click the button, accept the terms of agreement, and then fill in your information. After you set up your security questions and submit, it could take a few days for it to get approved. But you don’t have to do any more work than that!

2. It’s secure.

NextMD is created to be extremely safe on the internet because it has to comply with rigid privacy rules. (Remember the HIPAA forms you have to sign at your doctor’s front desk? Remember how long and detailed those are? The Privacy Act is very concerned about protecting your information, and the rules regarding electronic records are even more ironclad.) In fact, we don’t even e-mail you any of your health information directly, because we can’t protect it 100%. Instead, if we have new information for you to see – a statement, or test results, or a summary of your doctor’s findings – we simply send you an email letting you know it’s waiting for you on the NextMD website. It’s much safer than the old system of handing you a piece of paper with all your private information on it!

3. It’s so, so useful.

The first time my doctor asked me to get set up for an online patient portal, I kind of shrugged and thought, “I’ll never use this.” Sure, for someone with ongoing health concerns it might be really useful to have easy and immediate records of the doctor’s recommendations, medications, and so on. But I was healthy, I was busy, and was I really going to go back and look at old medical records? Not likely.

Since then, I’ve changed my mind. There is so much more to the Patient Portal than, say, what your doctor said at your last eye exam. Here’s what your Portal actually helps you do:

    • Send a secure message to your doctor or one of our staff.
    • Request an appointment.
    • View statements and make a payment online.
    • Renew your medications.
    • Request health records.
    • View test results and medications.

Once upon a time, you had to come in to the office to accomplish any of these things – or at the very least, pick up a phone during office hours. For me, having all of this at my fingertips, to access or implement the instant I think of it, has really helped me to take control of my health in new ways. The age of the online patient portal is here to stay – and that’s a good thing!

Contact North Cascade Eye Associates

If you would like more information about the patient portal, or if you would like to schedule an appointment at North Cascade Eye Associates, please contact us today. We are happy to answer any questions you might have!

In addition, join us on Facebook, Twitter, or Google+ to ask your questions about eyes, exams, and our practice. We’d love to hear from you – and I might write a blog to address your questions in the future.

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