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Online medicine catching at Kaiser

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Hawaii’s health care providers have seen a significant boost in the number of patients going online to schedule appointments, refill prescriptions and communicate with doctors.

Kaiser Permanente Hawaii said last week that more people are saving time and money by managing their health online instead of driving to a doctor’s office or phoning physicians during office hours.

The state’s largest health maintenance organization saw an 8.4 percent increase in the number of lab test results viewed online in 2010 over the previous year, 433,997 versus 400,512. The HMO also said:

» 277,900 emails were sent between patients and providers in 2010, up 21 percent.

» The 147,376 prescriptions that were filled online was an 11.4 percent increase from 2009.

» 5.3 percent more appointments were scheduled online, for a total of 13,527.

"More people are using technology to take care of their health care needs," said Kaiser spokes­woman Laura Lott. "If I don’t have to make an appointment to just ask a doctor one little question, I don’t have to leave work or get a baby sitter for my kids. It saves on driving, parking and gas."

Kaiser’s online system, My Health Manager, has 61,712 registered users statewide.

Palolo resident Pam Martin, a Kaiser patient for 20 years, has been using the system for more than a year.

"It’s significant for me as somebody who doesn’t own a car, having that communication without having to take time to go into the office," she said. "I can arrange my medical care from my house in front of my computer. I can check up on how things are. I can get a response from a doctor quicker than if I were to make an appointment to go in to see them."

In addition, all her doctors can access the same test results, which cuts down duplication of serv­ices, she said.

Hyewon Jun, a physician leader for Kaiser’s online serv­ice, said the system also helps doctors manage their patients better, improving the quality of care.

"It doesn’t limit you to the usual office hours — it’s removed so many barriers," Jun said. "I can send them an email at 7 a.m. without feeling I’m interrupting them, or at night after my kids are sleeping. It’s a whole new door for me to be able to keep my patients healthy."

The Hawaii Medical Service Association, which launched an online care serv­ice for members in January 2009, didn’t provide the number of members using the system or how often people are going online to manage their health care.

Hawaii Pacific Health — which includes Kapiolani Medical Center for Women & Children, Pali Momi Medical Center, Straub Clinic & Hospital and Wilcox Health on Kauai — said the number of patients using its MyHealthAdvantage online tool doubled from a year ago to 16,000. HPH launched an iPhone application this year that allows patients to access medical rec­ords via a mobile device.

"It’s definitely convenient," said HPH spokes­woman Claire Tong. "You can manage your children and your elderly parents (as well)."

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