Saskatchewan

Access to your own eHealth records may come sooner than you think, says U of S nursing prof

It may only be a matter of months before patients can see their own health records on an iPad or cellphone, says a University of Saskatchewan nursing professor — something she expects will be revolutionary for patient care.

Tracie Risling is studying barriers to accessing health records, but says change will be revolutionary

A University of Saskatchewan nursing professor says participants in a pilot project had 'amazing things' to say about online access to their health records. (saskatchewan.ca)

It may only be a matter of months before patients can see their own health records on an iPad or cellphone, says a University of Saskatchewan nursing professor — something she expects will be revolutionary for patient care. 

"I think it is a really powerful way to change the relationships that we have in our own health and with our health-care providers," said Tracie Risling, who is studying possible barriers to online health record access.  

Saskatchewan, like several other provinces, has spent the past three years exploring ways to make electronic health records widely available.

The Citizen Health Information Portal, or CHIP — a six-month pilot project — gave over 1,000 Saskatchewan patients online access to personal lab results, immunization history, hospital visits, and an overall view of their health records.

For everyone else, accessing that kind of information currently involves filling out a privacy waiver and sending it to officials in Regina, along with proof of identity.

Tracie Risling, an associate professor of nursing at the University of Saskatchewan, is studying barriers to health record access. (CBC News)

Risling says participants in the CHIP pilot had "amazing things" to say about the online access.

"Many of our participants essentially said that the electronic health record could [only] be taken away from them if they pried it out of their cold, dead fingers, so to speak," Risling told CBC Saskatchewan's Morning Edition

Risling herself sees the personal benefit in having access to records, as a parent to a child with a chronic health condition who requires blood work every six weeks.

There are new possibilities … when patients are true partners, and I think we need this information to be those partners.- Tracie Risling , U of Sask. nursing professor

Having electronic access to health records may enable a person to easily check specifics like their hemoglobin levels, and track changes, Risling said.

"Because you are your own expert in your own life, you might look at it and say, 'Oh, I remember what happened here. I'm going to talk to my doctor about this,'" said Risling.

"There are new possibilities, I think, when patients are true partners, and I think we need this information to be those partners."

Even as a self-described "longtime tech junkie," though, Risling says she's not in favour of innovations in health that may leave people behind.

Her research will see her working with different groups to ensure seniors and people living in rural or remote locations won't be cut off from accessing their records.

"We all have to move together into this era of digital health, and we have to figure out how to make it meaningful for us," said Risling.

"Once we have the access, we are going to be able to do some really amazing things."

With files from CBC Saskatchewan's Morning Edition and Jennifer Quesnel

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