Patients whose medical records are stored using Epic Systems’ software soon will be able to share key medical information with any physician or other health care provider in the country, or even the world.
All that’s needed is a smartphone with access to the internet.
The feature will make it easier for physicians and others to get one-time access to a patient’s key medical information, such as medications, health conditions, test results, allergies and in some cases physicians’ notes.
The feature, called Share Everywhere, will be available this month with an update of MyChart, Epic’s online portal that gives patients access to key information in their electronic health records.
Using an app in MyChart, a patient will be able to get a one-time access code that enables a physician or other health care provider to read the patient’s information in MyChart.
“It could have an immediate impact,” said Dan Czech, director of market analysis at KLAS, a respected research firm.
An emergency physician who wants to see a patient’s medications and medical conditions, for example, could use the Share Everywhere feature.
The physician can only read the information, not modify it, but can use the feature to send his or her notes to the patient’s primary care physician or another physician who sees the patient.
The feature also could be useful for therapists, nursing home staff, home health workers and others who need quick access to a patient’s basic medical information.
The same goes for when people are traveling in foreign countries.
“What if you are traveling to Australia?” said Sean Bina, a vice president with Epic. “How does the physician there get your information?”
Epic, based near Madison in Verona, is one of the largest companies that sell software for electronic health records and other health care-related tasks. The company employs 9,700 people, including 9,300 in Verona. It had revenue of $2.5 billion last year.
Physicians and other health care providers who use Epic software have access — with the patient’s approval — to the medical records of any patient whose records are stored on an Epic system, through its Care Everywhere network.
An average of 2 million patient records on Epic systems are exchanged each day, up from 1 million a year ago, according to Epic. That includes medical records exchanged between health systems that use Epic’s software and health systems and physicians that use software from other companies.
But much work remains in building a nationwide network that would make key information about a patient readily available in any hospital, clinic or other setting.
Exchanging medical information among systems that use software from different companies, such as Epic, Cerner, athenahealth and Allscripts, is challenging because of the complexity of the software and how it is configured by different health systems and physician practices.
Nationally, fewer than four in 10 physicians sent and received patient information to and from other physicians and health care providers in 2015, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Carequality — a network of networks such as Care Everywhere, being built through a broad industry collaboration — could provide a framework for exchanging medical information among systems from different vendors.
But the network still is in the early stages, although Bina said he expects to see a large increase in the number of exchanges on Carequality in the next 18 months.
For now, Share Everywhere is seen as a pragmatic and practical solution for exchanging basic medical information.
“It’s simple and elegant,” said Micky Tripathi, president and chief executive of Massachusetts eHealth Collaborative, a nonprofit consulting firm.
The feature also gives patients more control over their medical records.
“It’s innovative because it says to the patient that now this is in your hands,” Tripathi said.
As patients become aware of the Share Everywhere feature, it is expected to become a popular stopgap measure — at least until a robust national network is developed for exchanging medical records among health care providers who use competing software systems.
Meantime, Share Everywhere is so simple and practical that, like many innovations, it raises the question why no one came up with it sooner.
“We should have thought of it earlier,” Bina said.