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DMEJ

Duke Medical Ethics Journal

MyChart: Expanding Accessibility to Healthcare

By Devin Mulcrone
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The healthcare world today allows us to directly send messages to our providers, schedule appointments with the clicks of a few buttons, and even review notes our providers write about us. All of these features of the healthcare system have become possible through the creation of MyChart. MyChart was developed by Sunnybrook Hospital in 2005, was launched in 2006, and became widely available in 2007 [6]. From its initial launch, it began to spread to countless healthcare institutions and hospitals for its ability to streamline the healthcare process. The core functions of MyChart include access to blood test results, imaging reports, and physician notes. Features later developed include access to pathology reports, microbiology data, electrocardiogram results, and clinic schedules [6]

Prior to MyChart, the healthcare world was essentially a mystery to many patients. It involved long phone calls with healthcare support workers and numerous paper documents, often hard to retrieve due to laws surrounding HIPAA, or the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996. HIPAA is “a federal law that require[s] the creation of national standards to protect sensitive patient health information from being disclosed without the patient’s consent or knowledge” [3]. HIPAA laws essentially formally protect private, patient information as it relates to healthcare. HIPAA has posed a massive challenge for MyChart, as the features of MyChart can potentially lead to data leakages. However, MyChart has always been hypersensitive to protecting patient information. MyChart utilized the latest safety encryption technology, along with several important privacy features, to protect patient information from being accessed by anyone besides the patient or guardian of the patient [5]. 

The development of MyChart has advanced accessibility to healthcare through its numerous features, and countless studies have proved this claim. With over 100 million active users, 74% of individuals track their health using only MyChart [4]. Furthermore, 45% of MyChart users have begun to use the system to know more about their health. This important distinction provides unique insight into how MyChart has revolutionized healthcare. Not only can patients view their medical appointments and instructions, but patients can now utilize MyChart to analyze their health holistically. Prior to MyChart, patients would not be able to examine the cumulative history and progress of their health; it would require thousands of documents and hard work to accumulate all of their medical knowledge. Furthermore, they would not have the ability to make sense of all of their medical history. Now, MyChart synthesizes medical history to provide patients detailed and physician-analyzed accounts of their cumulative health. This feature of MyChart has given countless patients the ability to know where their health stands rather than floating in the air.

MyChart has additionally provided more accessibility to healthcare through its feature enabling users to directly message their providers. Without MyChart, a patient would have to call their doctor’s office or even make an appointment to receive clarification or a simple answer for a question they may have. With MyChart, patients can directly message their providers at no expense to have a question or concern dealt with. This feature not only expands healthcare through greater ease of contact and a lessened financial burden, but also enables physicians more time to treat more patients. Many appointments with providers can now be virtual through MyChart, and many appointments do not even have to be made if a physician can simply answer a patient’s question through a portal rather than a telephone call or face-to-face interaction.

However, this seamless contact has created a dramatic increase in work for physicians. Physicians not only have to deal with all of the patients and paperwork they deal with in a singular day, but they also must treat other patients who contact them through MyChart. Physician burnout is becoming more and more common, as the workload many physicians experience has dramatically increased in prior years [1]. MyChart can be held partially responsible for this increase in work, as it has given providers more people to deal with in a work day.
 

“MyChart has disrupted the past system of healthcare with the introduction of technology…”
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MyChart acts as a double-edged sword in this way. By expanding accessibility to healthcare, it has given numerous patients the ability to better know their health and access their providers more easily; however, MyChart has disrupted the past system of healthcare with the introduction of technology that has induced an unmanageable workload for many healthcare providers. MyChart also leaves potential room for data leakages besides its secure technology. Leaking patient healthcare information would be an enormous breach of privacy and security, as patient information is extremely serious and sensitive. It must then be asked whether these flaws of MyChart outweigh the many benefits MyChart has given to the entirety of the healthcare system.

When examining the healthcare system prior to MyChart, the lack of accessibility is astounding. It is almost difficult to imagine our healthcare system today without the use of MyChart. It allows us to seamlessly access our medical records, make appointments, and contact our providers. MyChart also logs patient insurance and lessens the burden of paperwork for many providers and their employees. The side effects of MyChart have been an increased workload for providers, in addition to possible data leakages of private patient information. However, the benefits of MyChart’s expanded accessibility clearly upholds its existence in the medical industry. The problem of physician burnout and workload, however, must also be addressed.

Physicians experience extreme levels of stress due to the nature of their profession and the workload they take on. Administrative burdens cause the majority of physicians to be overwhelmed with work [2]. It is here where the problem must be solved. Investing in technological solutions to reduce paperwork would alleviate much of the workload and stress healthcare providers face in their everyday work. Technological solutions like MyChart that ease information sharing within the healthcare system have been shown to reduce workload. Just as MyChart has been integrated into the healthcare system for the sake of the patient, so too should compatible programs for the sake of the physician. 

 

MyChart has expanded accessibility to healthcare for both patients and providers. Its benefits clearly outweigh its minimal risks and effects. However, its effects can be mitigated through investment in technological solutions to secure patient privacy and reduce physician burnout. The presence of MyChart in the healthcare system is extremely important, and technological innovations like the system continue to improve healthcare and expand accessibility for all.

Review Editor: Laila Khan-Farooqi
Design Editor: Ariha Mehta
References

[1] AHRQ. Physician burnout. (n.d.). https://www.ahrq.gov/prevention/clinician/ahrq-works/burnout/index.html 

[2] Berg, S. (2020, March 12). 6 big things that must change to beat physician burnout. American Medical Association. https://www.ama-assn.org/practice-management/physician-health/6-big-things-must-change-beat-physician-burnout

[3] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2022, June 27). Health Insurance Portability and accountability act of 1996 (HIPAA). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/phlp/publications/topic/hipaa.html 

[4] El Yaman, N., Zeitoun, J., Diab, R. et al. Utilization of patient portals: a cross-sectional study investigating associations with mobile app quality. BMC Med Inform Decis Mak 23, 177 (2023). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12911-023-02252-x

[5] Kansas Health System. MyChart Security Features | The University Of Kansas Health System. (n.d.-a). https://www.kansashealthsystem.com/patient-visitor/mychart-information/mychart-security 

[6] Redelmeier, D. A., & Kraus, N. C. (2018). Patterns in Patient Access and Utilization of Online Medical Records: Analysis of MyChart. Journal of medical Internet research, 20(2), e43. https://doi.org/10.2196/jmir.8372

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